In rural India, a strong cultural resistance to the build-up and disposal of excrement is also leading to rejection of new latrines
In the lanes of Parvar Poorab, a peaceful North Indian village set amid monsoon-soaked fields, Savita stares suspiciously at the concrete lavatory outside her home.
“The government employee who constructed it told me we had to use it now and we shouldn’t go in the open”, says the slight and sombre 22-year-old who goes by only one name.
“But it’s better to go in the open. The pit is very small and will fill up very soon. We only use it in an emergency or at night. I like going outside.”
Millions of Indians like Savita continue to defecate in the open despite having a household toilet, frustrating government hopes to wean more than 600 million of its citizens off the practice and questioning the assumptions behind its mass toilet-building programme.
In a rural India, strong cultural resistance to the build-up and disposal of excrement, and the view that going outdoors is more wholesome, is leading to rejection of the new latrines.
The most pressing reason to banish the practice, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to do by 2019, is its effect on public health spreading infectious diseases and stunting children’s growth by circulating faecal bacteria in the environment.
In this densely packed country, even people using toilets will still be exposed to germs unless everyone in the community abandons their routine of trudging to the nearest field, pond or railway track to relieve themselves.