Innovations in Sanitation: An Introduction

In these days of smartphones, streaming, online commerce, and telecommuting, it may seem strange that something as basic as sanitation would still need to be improved. But the reality is bleak: From the time you started reading this post until roughly the end of this sentence, another child will have died from poor sanitation.

Most readers of this blog have a home with clean, safe, running water. Most have a regular service that comes to their house to remove refuse, which is collected neatly in plastic bags and rubbish bins and carted away to a landfill. Most have at least one flush toilet, hygienic and convenient, to use in the safety and privacy of their own home. And all of these basic necessities of sanitation are replicated at our workplaces, our gathering places, our schools, and our places of worship.


Imagine going to visit a friend’s house for the first time. Your friend lives in the countryside. You can’t wait to relax and enjoy the beauty of the pastoral scenery.An open-air trash dump in India overflows with garbage. Animals and people alike scavenge the refuse.

As you approach, you are assaulted by the noxious smell of burning plastic. You are stunned to see trash piled all along the roadways, with insects swarming the refuse. When you enter your friend’s neat, simple home, you are offered a glass of questionable water. When you ask to relieve yourself after your long journey, you are ushered outside to an open field.

You have entered a very different world. Your friend lives in rural India, where sanitation basics cannot be taken for granted.


After your visit, you realize that seemingly simple things like trash collection, running water, and flush toilets—things that are taken for granted in your part of the world—are seemingly impossible in your friend’s world.

How can you have regular trash collection when burgeoning populations have exhausted landfill areas, so that there is no place to put the trash? How can you have safe water where poor sanitation practices have contaminated much of the water supply? How can you have flush toilets where there is not enough water, much less running water?A young girl uses the LifeStraw, a personal water purifier that filters water as she drinks it.

Innovations in sanitation are made to answer all of these crucial questions.

Over the next few weeks, LEAF Society’s blog will present a series of posts exploring India’s sanitation problems. We will look at some of the many recent inventions that address refuse management, water management, and human waste management needs in innovative ways.

Sanitation affects girls, it affects schooling, health, and economy. Improving sanitation has so many benefits; but because it’s so basic, people tend to forget about it.

– Therese Dooley, UNICEF Sanitation Advisor, in an interview with Inter Press Service

Sanitation is too important to forget about. It cannot be taken for granted. One child dying from poor sanitation every twenty seconds—1.5 million preventable deaths annually—should be more than enough of a reminder that we must continue to act and to innovate, until everyone can enjoy the benefits of good sanitation.

The best way to reach our goal of total sanitation—in India, and throughout the world—is to keep the conversation about sanitation going. Start by letting others know about the discussion here on LEAF Society’s blog. Contribute to the dialogue by adding your comments below. And contact LEAF Society to help us improve sanitation in Tamil Nadu, and across India.



Michelle Baumgartner is a freelance writer and editor. One of her current projects is an internship with LEAF Society. Michelle’s company, StellaWriting LLC, provides blogging, online content, and marketing materials for businesses and nonprofit organizations.




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