Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, a sanitation innovator and social reformer has been awarded the 2009 Stockholm Water Prize. This was announced at a seminar Wednesday in Stockholm to commemorate the World Water Day.
Per Arne Malmqvist, Scientific Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute and the Stockholm Water Prize nominating committee, said that Dr. Pathak was awarded for his technical and social campaigns in promoting the sanitation conditions for millions of poor people in India.
'Dr. Pathak has managed to reach two goals. He has combined sanitation technology with the improvement of poor people's human rights. Those who used to clean the latrines they had before are given human dignity by releasing them from such jobs. They used to be called untouchables. He has provided information to schools and teach people about sanitation information. These are all driven by sanitation technology which is simple and applicable in the local area such as turning the waste into nutrients to be used in gardens,' said director Malmqvist.
Malmqvist said that Dr Pathak was also a social activist by discussing and cooperating with the authorities so that all sectors that involved can benefit from the process.
'Over ten million Indian people are using his public toilet every day. He has 7500 public toilet locations and it is expanding to other part of the world such as Bhutan and Afghanistan.' Malmqvist continued to say.
As the founder of the Sulabh International Social Service Organization, Dr. Pathak is known around the world for his wide ranging work in the sanitation field to improve public health, advance social progress and improve human rights in India and other countries. His accomplishments span the fields of sanitation technology, social enterprise and healthcare education for millions of people in India, serving as a model for NGO agencies and public health initiatives around the world.
He established the Sulabh Sanitation Movement in 1970, aiming at changing social attitudes toward traditional unsanitary latrine practices in slums, rural villages and dense urban districts by developing cost-effective toilet systems to improve people's daily life and health for millions of people.
He has waged an ongoing campaign to abolish the traditional practice of manual scavenging of human waste from bucket latrines in India.
Dr. Pathak's leadership in attaining these remarkable social environmental results has been universally recognized, and not least by those who have secured the freedom of human dignity as a consequence of his efforts.
According to the citation of the nominating committee, Dr. Pathak's most prominent innovations include the following:
The Sulabh Shauchalaya twin pit, pour-flush toilet system is now in use in more than 1.2 million residences and buildings built by Sulabh. The technology has been declared a Global Best Practice by United Nations HABITAT and Center for Human Settlements, and is now recommended by the UNDP for use by more than 2.6 billion people around the world.
The pay-per-use public facilities provide an economically sustainable, ecologically and culturally acceptable solution to hygiene problems in crowded slum communities and public places.
Optimized water conservation in the Sulabh Shauchalaya systems, requires only 1.5 litres of water per use to flush in comparison to conventional toilets which require a minimum of 10 litres. This has significant additional benefits for health and quality of life in water-poor regions.
Environmentally balanced wastewater treatment based on a duckweed and fish raising ecosystem provide economic opportunities for rural poor communities. Several technologies that convert waste from Sulabh toilets into biogas for heating, cooking and generating electricity also benefit the local people.
Dr. Pathak is a self-described action-sociologist and a hygiene and health educator. He has worked on the leading edge of social enterprise for decades, combining business best practices and principled activism to advance the causes of better sanitation, societal change and improved quality of life. With more than 50 thousand members and in collaboration with UN-HABITAT, Sulabh has trained engineers, architects, planners and administrators from 14 countries in Africa.
As a hygiene and health educator, Dr. Pathak has led efforts across the NGO and government sectors to develop effective and culturally oriented hygiene and health models for urban slums and rural villages. It even created hygiene curricula for young schoolchildren and their teachers .
Working with the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, Dr. Pathak also established the Sulabh Environmental Information System Centre to gather and disseminate environmental information related to hygiene, sanitation and sewage treatment for researchers, academics, policy makers and students.
Dr. Pathak was born in 1943 and got master degrees in both sociology and English, Ph Ds in low cost sanitation and Literature.
He will get a prize of 150 thousand US dollars and a crystal sculpture during the World Water Week to be held on August 16-22.
By Xuefei Chen, People's Daily Online correspondent in Stockholm.