Sulabh Toilets Flush With Possibility

In 1970, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak designed the sulabh sauchalaya (latrines-pour-flush toilet with twin leach pit) and founded what is now the Sulabh Movement. The movement is based on a simple idea that proper sanitation and wastewater management is good for public health and climate change. He announced to the World Environment and Water Resources Congress at Providence in Rhode Island that he will be promoting his invention around the world in the coming years in an effort to help meet the Millennium Development Goal of providing toilets to the 2.6 billion people who don’t have them by 2025.

Photo Credit: mediaglobal Is the Sulabh toilet a viable tool to fight global warming?
Is the Sulabh toilet a viable tool to fight global warming?

Dr. Pathak said the sulabh system is ideal because it reduces water use and provides needed fertilizer for developing countries. In addition, it is a decentralized system whose technologies are not covered by any patents, so in a sense it is and open-source, eco-friendly technology.

The sulabh latrine, pictured above, consists of a squatting plate/ pan with an inclined bottom and side slopes along with a gas-trap and water-seal. The water-seal diverts gasses and microbes into leach pits rather than releasing them into the atmosphere. The latrine uses around 1.5 to 2 liters of water to flush the excreta into the leach pits through pipes and covered drains. Gases disperse and the liquid infiltrates into soil through holes in the pit lining.

One of the two pits is used at a time, with the second being used when the first is full. After approximately 18 months, the contents of the filled pit have been digested into manure- the pit is emptied and can be used again once the second pit is filled, allowing for continuous use of the same sulabh toilet system.


He is focusing first on Ghana, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Laos, and Cambodia in the beginning stages of an ambitious plan to bring the technology to over 50 countries. These efforts will add to the over 7,000 public toilets already installed in India.

“In the 60s when I came on the scene in India, no house and no school had a toilet in rural India. In urban areas, 85 percent of people had bucket toilets in their homes cleaned manually or they used to go for defecation in the open.” — Dr. Pathak

According to him, the sulabh system has helped turn those numbers around, and now 63% people in urban areas and 57% in rural areas have access to toilet facilities.

Written by Scott James

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