Marta is an American native who settled in India in 2012 and started working in the villages of Uttar Pradesh under the project name “Better Village Better World.” Till now she has built 143 cost-efficient eco toilets known as ‘evapotranspiration’, 10 ft wide and 122-meter permeable roads and french drains which help in rainwater harvesting. Marta spent her own money for 82 eco toilets and 27 solar-powered homes.
As per the recent Swachhta Status Report 2016, 52.1% of the rural population of the country still defecates in the open. Uttar Pradesh has the population of 204.2 million (2012 census) and only 35% of its households have toilets. You to can join Marta’s efforts. Donate to her here
Better Village Better World
Four years ago, Marta surveyed a village in Jagatpur, Uttar Pradesh and asked all villagers what they want for their homes and their communities. The majority of the households answered that they need toilets. Marta believes that “asking, listening, observing over time is key to understanding what people want.”
Marta is also a co-author of different books, research papers and has developed a theory for three-pronged strategy on development that incorporates health, education and the pieces of infrastructure.
“Based on my theory, I wanted a small scale model that I could execute. Through volunteering with Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna, I found two Villages in Amethi and Rai Bareli with a few active self-help groups. Then I decided to learn about it more and more, practice and contribute.” Marta said to The Logical Indian.
The toilet model Marta introduced is called evapotranspiration which is self-cleaning and requires less land.
Marta and her team brought the community together and communicated the benefits of every project they are doing in the village. Today, these small villages understand the importance of hygiene and healthcare. Children in the village are educating their elders to use eco toilets and keep the neighbourhood clean.
The speciality of evapotranspiration toilet model
The total cost to construct one unit is Rs 10,639 while a normal toilet under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan costs Rs. 17,000. To curtail costs, they use broken bricks and recycled materials wherever possible, including fly ash bricks and used tires. The toilet has low operating costs, only the occasional cleaning of the squatting platform is needed.
Contrastingly, in the unlined twin pit toilet model, the toilet tank is filled with waste and later emptied. Due to the opening in the septic tank the urine and faecal matter enter the soil causing health issues. The evapotranspiration toilet is self-cleaning – the waste is filtered without human intervention.
It is an on-site sanitation system for the chemical and biological treatment and reuse of household blackwater. It was developed and popularised over the last two to three decades by permaculture practitioners in different countries, especially the U.S. and Brazil.
Together, the substructure layers use the anaerobic digestion, capillary action, evaporation, and transpiration processes to filter, release and absorb the waste matter. Anaerobic digestion converts a portion of the human excreta into biogas, exiting out the back-standpipe. The digested matter travels up and out through capillary action. The nutrients leave the system by incorporating into the plants’ biomass through mineralisation and absorption through its roots, while evapotranspiration removes the liquid, either transpiring through the plants or evaporating at the surface of the soil.
Effectiveness of the eco toilets
User surveys: The team follows up with the toilet users, conducting several usage and performance surveys.
An accredited laboratory, local government authorities, engineers and sustainable architects all reviewed the toilet model.
The FICCI Research and Analysis centre collected samples from the eco toilets and all determined parameters tested within the permissible limits. Coliform and E.coli were not detected in the water hand pumps neighbouring the eco toilets.
Other projects under Better Village Better World
Besides building eco toilets and roads, Marta
has also set up 27 solar panels in homes, with two lights and a mobile charger,
Built French drains with rainwater harvesting techniques,
has been working on Mycofiltration systems for potable water and
Pawan Singh is the program coordinator. He also helped in running literacy programs, writing textbooks and organic farming, setting up libraries and organised a pilot stage of four classrooms. ‘Mera Doctor’ is a telehealth service which aims to provide a medical facility that offers 24×7 doctor-on-call, and gifted their services for free for a year to two villages.
Creating an awareness
Marta says that it is not only about awareness. Most people in villages know about toilets and the importance of their use. “We never lecture the people we work with. We use art, street theatre, and graffiti to encourage toilet use thanks to collaborations with Ayushya George, Khanabadosh, and BasicShit.org, respectively. We introduced a model that addresses their concerns of cleaning tanks and showed them different models, and they chose this model. They had a say, a stake, in what was built,” she said.
The community has supported these projects by volunteering their time and lending their land, among others. Marta and her fellows work with the same workers and masons. They understand how the eco toilets function and explain its mechanism to new households.
Without enough support and resources, Marta has done incredible work selflessly. Now she wants us to join her efforts.
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