Singaporean group introduces "floating" toilets in Cambodia
13 December 2008
By Channel NewsAsia's IndoChina correspondent Anasuya Sanyal (S'pore)
CAMBODIA: In rural Cambodia, only 16 per cent of residents have a proper toilet -- the lowest rate in Southeast Asia.
However, one Singaporean group is working to change that.
On Cambodia's great lake, Tonle Sap, water stretches for miles in every direction.
But getting clean drinking water and proper sanitation is another story entirely.
Homes here are floating platforms and must move seasonally, and outhouses are simply a wooden plank over the open water.
Water and sanitation issues are of crucial importance to people who are on Tonle Sap, where safe drinking water comes at a price and toilet facilities are rudimentary.
People have no choice but to contaminate the very same water they use for drinking and washing.
Singaporean non-governmental organisation Lien Aid aims to make a difference in this community of about 10,000 people.
They are introducing the concept of "floating" toilets which are affordable, locally-made, and therefore sustainable.
"It is actually a simple system… We're going to use locally available buckets where they can collect the faeces. We are going to use some locally available agent to dry the faeces, that is, using ashes and other local material," said the CEO of Lien Aid, Sahari Ani.
One key to the project is that locals will have to source and build their own toilets, to ensure that all parts of the community are involved.
"The toilet that we introduce to the community -- they are very happy to get that one and they try to find their own resources to contribute to the project," said the director of the Department of Rural Health Care, Ministry of Rural Development, Chea Samnang.
A young couple, who has two children with another on the way, says they are happy to have a simple and hygienic toilet.
They worry that people's lifelong habits will be difficult to change.
But they hope the affordable toilets will catch on with the lake's residents, just like other modern conveniences that have done so.
And it is testimonies like theirs that makes this project look set to be flush with success.