Cambodia: Floating Toilets for Floating Villages

Mr. Sahari Ani, Photo: ADB

Mr. Sahari Ani, Photo: ADB

Mr. Sahari Ani, the CEO of Lien Aid, a Singapore-based nongovernment organization, was interviewed by the Asian Development Bank in their “Water Champion” series. Mr Ani spoke about his organisation’s work in Cambodia, in particular on the floating toilets of the “River of life” project (see also an earlier blog post on this project). “With this, we hope to provide better sanitation options for the floating communities on the Tonle Sap [lake]. We’ve already heightened the communities’ awareness on proper sanitation. This month, we will introduce different toilet designs that they can build on their houseboats. Simultaneously, we’re providing them with a safer choice for drinking water by building a floating water treatment plant” Mr. Ani said. “We are exploring several options including the use of especially adapted septic tanks plus ecological sanitation using the urine diversion-dissecting (UDD) toilet”.

Based on the villagers’ preferences, Lien Aid “determined the size of the toilets, buckets to be used for storage of excreta, ecosan pans (2-hole or 3-hole), and other design considerations [resulting in] 3 workable designs to date”. “Our next challenges are to modify existing toilets to incorporate the UDD options, ensure availability of suitable drying material for covering feces, and keep the costs manageable”, Mr. Ani explained.

Lien Aid, which works together with the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) and local authorities, “is developing simple […] publications on methods of construction, use, and maintenance of the floating toilets”.

Floating toilets cost “between US$50-200, depending on whether the family will just upgrade their existing drop-hole toilet to accommodate the UDD technology or whether the entire toilet, including superstructure, will be constructed from scratch. The size of the toilet will also dictate the cost – toilets that can accommodate 2 tanks will obviously cost more. We’re still trying to lower the cost by using indigenous materials and encouraging local entrepreneurs to manufacture the UDD pans”.

Together with the floating toilets, “a land-based composting unit and collection system will be established to manage the semi-composted feces. We hope to promote the use of fully decomposed feces as compost”.

Lien Aid had “already set up a community center for water-sanitation related training and advocacy activities” and “will also form a water-sanitation group from among the residents and community leaders”.

“Our work is less about giving hand-outs and more about empowering people to participate and make informed choices on how they can improve their lives. Extensive consultation with local authorities, NGOs, and communities is the backbone of our work”.

See sample designs of floating UDD toilets here.

Source: ADB, Feb 2009

3 responses to “Cambodia: Floating Toilets for Floating Villages

  1. Nice initiative… can I get detail picture and design of the floating toilets. It sounds interesting to resolve the toilet problem in flood prone areas. Your cooperation would be appreciated.

  2. The floating toilet design interests me greatly as my group and i in my engineering project at curtin university in western australia have been working on developing a similar structure. We hope to however make a toilet for a floating school that will be completely self composting on site, where no excreta will have to be removed from the toilet before it is pathogen free and safe to use as fertilizer within the floating community. We have, however, had trouble on locating information on the materials available, their dimensions and corresponding cost, specifically plastic drums, construction timber planks, paint and toilet pans. Any links or sources of information about these materials would be greatly appreciated. Cheers!

  3. Certainly an interesting idea and one that I am sure will serve for better sanitary conditions. I am actually quite surprised that this is not something that was already being developed.

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