Tum Nup I and Doem Chan are the latest Phnom Penh villages to benefit from the Urban Resource Center’s initiative to install freestanding toilets in poor communities.
“We wanted to design a solution that was better for the environment and better for the health of the communities,” said Claire Liousse, manager of environmental programs for the center.
The filter toilets cost approximately $260 each, serve five people and do not require access to a drainage system. Tum Nup I, in Daun Penh district, and Doem Chan, in Meanchey district, are each receiving six toilets. The villages contribute labor and 15 percent of total costs. The government provides each village $12.
Clean water access is a pressing problem in poor neighborhoods, particularly for communities that live over water.
According to the World Health Organization’s 2002 World Health Report, a number of diseases, including diarrhea, parasitic diseases and hookworm, are caused by dirty water.
And makeshift bathrooms, which are often poorly lighted and difficult to access, are unsafe. “Many places have a wobbly footbridge to a platform where people squat,” Liousse said.
“In terms of safety for the children, the elderly and the handicapped, safe structures are very important,” Liousse added.
The filter toilets operate by diluting waste before filtering it through layers of sand and rocks, and re-releasing it into the earth or natural water supply. The center is testing the long-term environmental effects of filter toilets.