toilets: the importance of ownership (also, really, the iPad of commodes?)

there are some cool ideas about local maintenance and ownership in the reported community-led total sanitation.

we shouldn’t be too hasty to overlook the ‘conceptual ownership’ aspect, though. It’s really important that there is responsibility delegated for taking care of a toilet or latrine. i have encountered plenty of toilets – and lines for toilets – in many places that make going outside the clearly superior alternative. any time i see an initiative for building a large number of new latrines or toilets (like this), i worry about that all-important maintenance component that turns the toilets into a permanent improvement.

among other experiences, an unregistered slum in bombay in which i did some research had only a few latrines, privately owned by households. The households charged money but did not maintain the latrines. It was clear why many people still preferred to use the ocean. and those who did wait for the latrine often faced a morning before-school rush that was daunting, often resulting in kids being late for school.

so, yes, there is a very important element of ownership related to aspirations and feeling good about your latrine and bad about the alternative. but don’t forget the cleaning-duty chore wheel and check-list.