Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Toiletman

My daily mailings from the Asian Development Bank usually contain notices on projects and links to reports on roadbuilding and other fascinating projects in the ADP development area. I keep waiting for that wonderful social project in Vietnam to pop up....

This morning I was a bit startled to find this link 'Water Champion Jack Sim on Flushing Down the Toilet Taboo'.

Mr Sim is the founder of the World Toilet Organisation (also apparently known as the WTO). It's vision is 'to attain clean, safe, affordable, ecologically sound, and sustainable sanitation for everyone'. The organisation, in business for 7 years, has even founded a World Toilet College in Singapore.

You may laugh, if you are sitting in a comfortable house with a clean toilet always available. As many people do, he says, but when he started the organisation, he met Thailand's Mr Condom, Senator Mechai Viravaidya, who told him that when people laugh with him, they listen to him. Apparently the media love talking about toilets.

But from my own experience in Central Asia, and given the fact that every year two million children die from diarrhoeal diseases, due mainly to poor hygiene, he has a very important point to make. On another level his organisation helped to reduce the queues in ladies' toilets (think concert halls) by making builders of public spaces put in double the number of women's cubicles compared to men's toilets.

Amazingly, the organisation works with a very limited budget - they don't run projects themselves, but influence other organisations to take their ideas on board - and given the health impact of a good toileting system those organisations are only too pleased to cooperate.

More power to his elbow!