Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh Sanitation Movement in India, has been awarded the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for his innovative work in the sanitation field.
Dr. Pathak has worked tirelessly since 1970 to change cultural and social attitudes toward the traditional latrine practices in rural villages and slums, which are unsanitary and unnecessarily expose people to disease.
Dr. Pathak’s aim is to improve public health, advance social progress, and improve human rights in India and other countries, and he serves as a model for non-governmental organizations and global public health agencies.
“The results of Dr. Pathak’s endeavors constitute one of the most amazing examples of how one person can impact the well being of millions. Dr. Pathak’s leadership in attaining these remarkable socio-environmental results has been universally recognized, and not least by those who have secured the freedom of human dignity as a consequence of his efforts.” – Stockholm Water Prize nominating committee
His campaign to abolish the practice of manual scavenging of human waste from bucket latrines in India and his willingness to stand up for the rights of the former scavengers to economic opportunity, dignity, and a decent standard of living are unprecedented. These scavengers are considered “untouchable” in India’s caste system, and Dr. Pathak has voiced his belief that the scavenging is “a dehumanizing” practice.
Dr. Pathak has led the development of culturally appropriate and cost-effective toilets and treatment systems to replace the traditional unsanitary bucket latrines in poor villages throughout India. Dr. Pathak cites the common toilet as one of civilization’s most significant advances, yet for the poor, the pit toilet is a health risk.
One of his accomplishments, the Sulabh Shauchalaya twin pit, pour-flush toilet system is now in use in more than 1.2 million residences and buildings. United Nations HABITAT and Centre for Human Settlements has declared the technology a Global Best Practice, and is now recommended by the UNDP for use by more than 2.6 billion people around the world.
Dr. Pathak has also developed several technologies to convert waste from Sulabh Shauchalaya toilets into biogas for use in heating, cooking, and generating electricity.
Dr. Pathak will receive the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize this August at a Royal Award Ceremony and Banquet during the World Water Week in Stockholm.