Despite a government campaign promoting a healthier lifestyle and improved sanitation facilities, some people continue to defecate in rivers and in other open areas around their homes.
Residents are also frequently found dumping garbage just about anywhere. In the Jagir area of Wo nokromo, Pasuruan, East Java, the sight of people defecating in rivers has become commonplace, and can also be seen throughout the country.
One riverbank squatter in Surabaya, Siti Aminah, 45, for instance, prefers to answer the call of nature in a river, despite there being a public toilet nearby.
“I’m used to pooing in the river, ever since I was little. Despite the frequent campaigns for using public toilets and healthy lifestyles, pooing in the river is more pleasurable,” she said last week.
Siti is not alone in her filthy habits. Every morning, housewives living near the Surabaya River frequently defecate in the river before washing their clothes there.
The habit of randomly defecating is not only done by residents living along the banks of the Surabaya River, however. In a number of places, such as at a village located on the slopes of Mount Kelud in Blitar, East Java, the habit is also embraced by local villagers who prefer to defecate in the bushes and later cover it up with dirt, despite the availability of toilets there.
A youth figure in Kalibadak village in Blitar, Sunanto, 35, said defecating in the garden and around the house had been practiced since the Japanese occupation. A majority of villagers who work in plantations still carry it out until now.
“The public toilets are too far from their workplaces, so they prefer to do it in the open and later cover it up with sand,” he said.
Abdul Cholid, chief of Dlambah Dajah village in Tanah Merah district, Bangkalan, Madura, said hundreds of villagers defecated carelessly in the open.
But after the government built 350 latrines and the provincial administration conducted its campaigns, the habit was gradually dropped, he added.
“It takes time and hard work to get people to defecate in the toilet. The government built toilets around the village in 2004, but people only stopped defecating in the open from 2006,” Cholid said.
Apart from the government, the Kaliandra Sejati Foundation, which is working together with Leeds Metropolitan University in England, has been trying to change the habit, party by introducing the composting toilet, developed in Europe and considered environmentally friendly.
Rupert Bozeat, an associate senior professor of design at Leeds Metropolitan University, said composting toilets had been used in communities across England and Europe, and even at his family’s home in England.
“Besides being eco-friendly, the toilet is also sanitary and doesn’t emit smells, because the feces are separated from the water used to flush it. We don’t have to spend money pumping out the feces,” Bozeat told The Jakarta Post last Thursday.
He added compact feces separated from water were then flushed into a tank, whose capacity could be adapted for each family’s needs. The contents of the tank can then be used as organic compost for farming.
“The flushed water, which is channeled through a pipe, can be reused after going through the water treatment process. This can certainly minimize the water crisis,” Bozeat said.
He added that building such a facility only cost Rp 10 million, which included the Swedish-made Aquatron, to separate solid matter and liquid.
The cost of building a composting toilet is far more expensive than installing a septic tank, which costs an average of Rp 1 million.
Kaliandra Sejati Foundation community development officer Fathurohman said students at Leeds Metropolitan University were still setting up composting toilets at the Kaliandra Cultural and Natural Education Center in Dayurejo village in Prigen district, Pasuruan, and would introduce it to the public soon after completion.