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Mandip Kaur Sandher:
Eco-Warrior

by THANA DHARMARAJA

 

When Mandip Kaur Sandher was in India as a teenager and nature called, she resorted to relieving herself in a sugar cane field.

Now, when she visits, she plans her daily routes around accessible public toilets.

"This should not be a lingering problem," said the woman from Morriston (Ontario, Canada), a founding member of the Canadian Toilet Organization in 2008.

As part of the non-profit organization, Mandip has built 10 toilets for homes in her native village of Chak Hakim within the state of Punjab in India.

Now she wants to empower others to do the same.

Nearly 700 million Indians don't have basic sanitation and across the globe nearly 1.6 million deaths per year can be attributed to unsafe water, poor sanitation and lack of hygiene, according to the organization.

The lack of public toilets in India doesn't get enough public attention, Mandip Kaur said.

"It isn't sexy enough," she said. "Who wants to talk about toilets?"

In March 2007, Mandip came across an article about Indian girls dropping out of school due to a lack of safe toilets on school premises.

She was then inspired to meet with the Sulabh Social Service organization in India to build toilets. The Sulabh organization built a two-pit design with a free-standing structure that contained a squat-down toilet. Users pour and flush the toilet with two litres of water, which flows into the pit. In five years when the pit is full, the waste is diverted to the second pit.

Each toilet cost $300.

The families that received the toilets were selected by the village council, Mandip said.

She isn't collecting funds directly to construct further toilets, but wants to provide others the resources so they can do so. She encourages people to select a specific village and start small, as the overall problem of sanitation can be overwhelming.

Ari Grief, director of the Canadian Toilet Organization, said there should also be education provided to the Indians once the toilet is built.

"The villagers need to know why they need a toilet," he said.

Without knowing why they need to take care of the toilet and how to use it, Grief said, any initiative won't be as successful.

 

For more info on Mandip Kaur and her passions, please visit www.punjablioness.com 

[Courtesy: The Guelph Mercury]

April 24, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Gurinder Singh Dhanoa (Australia), April 26, 2009, 11:10 PM.

I will do the same when I go back to my 'pind'.

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Eco-Warrior"









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