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A Unique Challenge From A Unique Context

The Soligas in BR Hills have been resettled into sub-community/Podu level resettlement colonies after the forest was declared a tiger reserve. This has been a step by the government to stop shifting cultivation practices as well as integrate the communities into the mainstream. At one of these villages, we noticed a set of shared toilet facilities right at the entrance. The toilets had prominent signs that declared them to be bio-toilets supported by DRDO technology (http://drdoficciatac.com/Biodigester/aboutus.asp)

The toilets seemed to be not in use so we enquired with a couple of people who were standing around. They told us that the toilets had been erected about a year ago, to discourage open defecation around the forest. However the pipes that carried the effluent from the toilets were not laid deep enough to account for the wild boar around. The boar had broken through the pipes causing a terrible stink in and around the toilets, which were situated right next to the houses.

The story struck as a vivid example of how change and technology needs to take into account unique aspects and nuances of the context of application. While the proximity of wild boar may not be a design consideration to build a scalable sanitation technology, the application of this technology in BR hills required careful consideration of the unique contextual challenges. What we saw did leave us wondering, if the intervention hadn’t actually created a larger public health hazard when compared to the practice of distributed open defecation within the dense forest.