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Seer champions sanitation cause at Kumbh

Times of India -5th February, 2013

By Shailvee Sharda

ALLAHABAD/LUCKNOW: Swami Chidanand Saraswati of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram has earned sanitary distinction for the campaign he is running during the ongoing Maha Kumbh to provide clean toilets in religious places. The seer from Rishikesh has recently entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Defence Research and Designs Organisation (DRDO) to use their technology of bio-toilets in places where proper sanitation facilities are not available. Industry body FICCI is also supporting the endeavor.

The DRDO’s technology for bio-toilets is called bio-digester. It resolves the problem of non-decomposed human waste. The innovative system converts human waste into usable water and gases in an eco-friendly manner. The gas generated can be utilised for energy/cooking and water for irrigation purposes. The process involves the bacteria which feed upon the faecal matter inside the tank, through anaerobic process which finally degrades the matter and releases the gas methane, which can be used for cooking.

The MoU will help important religious places in Uttar Pradesh get bio-toilets. Swami Chidanand has written a letter to mayors in Varanasi and Allahabad to provide a list of places where toilets are needed. He has also asked them to specify the number of toilets needed. Talking to TOI, the Swami said: “A clean body is the first thing needed to be able to focus on anything. Imagine yourself suffering from constipation and the restlessness it causes. It is more important to build toilets than temples.”

He added that sanitation was an important socio-religious issue as well. “Socially, it is associated with the safety and health of women and religiously, it is an individual’s first duty to keep one’s body clean,” he said. The toilet campaign owes its genesis to a small incident in the hills. Recalling the story, Sadhvi Bhagwati, an active member in the ashram, said, “On his way to Gangotri one morning, Swamiji noticed what difficulty some women were facing to relieve themselves as there was constant traffic on the road. That moment he resolved to address the issue of sanitation and solve the problem.”

Experts in the United Nations and top medical centers in the world associate the issue closely with safety, dignity and health of women. An officer of the ministry of water and sanitation said anemia and urinary infections among rural women were rooted in lack of clean toilet facilities. “Women drink less water to avoid going to the open fields to relieve themselves which causes fluid imbalance in their bodies. The impact is higher among pregnant women,” he added.

Crusaders against open defecation welcome the idea of using Maha Kumbh as a platform to talk about sanitation, a major issue in Uttar Pradesh. As per the 2011 census data, more than 89% homes in the state did not have a functional toilet.

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