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What immediate sanitation solution is suitable for a concrete/urban area?


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The Chemical Toilet, commonly referred to as ‘porta-loo’ can be used as an immediate sanitation solution in the acute response phase of an emergency. Chemical toilets are generally contained in a single prefabricated plastic portable unit, or cubicle, that collects human excreta in a sealed holding tank which contains chemicals. The holding tank below the toilet is commonly designed with a 200 L capacity, where a chemical solution is added. The holding tank collects the excreta, flush water and anal cleansing material. The chemical additives in both the flush water and holding tank reduce odours and partially treats the excreta.

One toilet can serve up to 75-100 persons per desludging interval. Standard cubical size is usually about 110 cm (43 in) square by 210 cm (83 in), large enough for one person. Modifications to the standard design are available on the market with a variety of different user interfaces such as urinals, squatting pans, pedestal toilet and with wheelchair access and hand-washing stations in the cubical. Larger holding tanks (<200 litres) and winterized models with anti-freeze are also available. If removal of sludge is delayed or not carried out, Chemical Toilet can very quickly become a serious health risk.

The main disadvantage of chemical toilets is their expense and high operation and maintenance needs. Additionally, they are not that common outside of Europe, North America and some parts of South America. The advantage of using chemical toilets is that they can be mobilised rapidly, they are generally well accepted as they provide good privacy and if well maintained don’t smell or attract flies. Additionally, they can be easily moved if needed and don’t require any digging so suitable for concreted area that we find in urban areas.

References & Further Reading Guidance for choosing portable or chemical toilets in emergency situations. Harvey, P.A. (2007). Excreta Disposal in Emergencies - A Field Manual. WEDC Experiences and lessons learnt from implanting portable toilets in the emergency context: Eyrard J. (2011). Is the “Portaloo” solution replicable? - Emergency WASH response after earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti 2010. ACF-France (Action Contre La Faim)

General purchasing guide for Portaloos: Potaloo Purchasing Guide

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