By Anshika Ajmera Chhabra
A trio that actually gives some
A case study released by the international body of Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) in 2014 indicates that while 75 percent of Delhi is equipped with a sewage system, only 24 percent of the faecal sludge is being treated. The same case study also states that Delhi, along with Dhaka and Phnom Penh, constitutes the lowest rung of cities that have “no framework for (sanitation) service delivery”.
With this dismal scenario in the backdrop, three young men—Ashwani Aggarwal (24), Karan Singh (26), and Himanshu Saini (25), have risen to the challenge of combating India’s sanitation crisis. In pursuit of cleaning the country of its waste, the triad has launched a sanitation initiative called BasicShit.
Why the provocative name? “Basic, because toilets are a basic necessity, and SHIT is an abbreviation for Sanitation and Hygiene Innovative Technology,” says Aggarwal, the founder of the group. BasicShit aims to reduce public urination by setting up low cost portable urinals, and waterless and biodegradable urinals across the country, beginning with the capital. Biodegradable urinals process urine and the same can be used to water plants in the vicinity.
BasicShit urinals are designed to be waterless—a sieve covers the inverted urinal from where waste is to flow into the toilet to a layer of vegetable oil; the urine gets collected below the thick film of oil. It is further pushed into a connected pipe that leads into the drains
“It all started with my college project wherein I got ‘sanitation’ as my final submission topic. So while surveying I was shocked to learn that people living in the slums of Delhi consider toilets to be only the possessions of the rich. Hence, they defecate in the open and it was here that I decided to take this up full time and do something for the cause,” says Aggarwal, an alumnus of Delhi College of Art.
Building the project and coming up with a very practical and cost effective alternative to street urination, Aggarwal started a crowd funding campaign on a popular crowd funding site, IndieGogo. The first two urinals were installed at the heavily populated and urine-drenched AIIMS and Dhaula Kuan bus stops in New Delhi. These were to be availed free of cost. Each unit comprises five urinals, which were initially made up of 20-litre water jars and were covered with a tin shed, costing approximately Rs 15,000. Since the metal started getting stolen by rag pickers, the group decided to use recyclable products as alternatives, which they could easily procure from junkyards in Mayapuri and Okhla (Delhi).
These urinals are designed to be waterless—a sieve covers the inverted urinal from where waste is to flow into the toilet to a layer of vegetable oil; the urine gets collected below the thick film of oil. It is further pushed into a connected pipe that leads into the drains. Keeping in mind the sanitation aspect, initially BasicShit also put lemon slices in each urinal to ward off flies around and promote better hygiene. But in superstitious India, the concept tanked. “The lemon thing failed miserably because after we placed the lemons in the unit, people just stopped using them. Later, we found out that people were thinking they were being subjected to some form of black magic! But once we removed the lemon, the number of people using it per day reached 1,000 to 1,200,” shares Aggarwal.
The young change makers did not face much trouble installing the urinals as the Delhi Police at Dhaula Kuan and local residents and politician of the AIIMS area immediately approved the plan “unlike the PWD and NDMC that are subscribers of red tape”. Units are set up in disputed lands, ridding the ternion of the question of convenience. A dedicated employee has been engaged to take up the responsibility of cleaning the toilets, but the stall owners have no problem doing it themselves. BasicShit has also made their presence felt at festivals like Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh and Vasundhara in Goa.
“We plan to set up at least 20 more urinals across the city and then spread our horizons to Mumbai. Currently, we are focusing on sustaining and maintaining our current sites, which is the most challenging part of the journey,” says Aggarwal.
The project has an international reach as well. Having won funding of Rs 2 lac, along with securing the 2nd spot at the World Water Forum in South Korea, BasicShit was the only one with a running project in hand. The group also received accolades at the Asian Development Bank’s Youth Initiative meet in South Korea recently.