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Filmmaker-actor Suresh Menon has come up with a single-room eco-friendly toilet with closet, shower and washbasin, using discarded shipping containers.
"Most of our rural folk live without toilets and bathrooms. The women in those areas have to get up early to finish their morning ablutions. It really touched me and that's why I developed a toilet especially for women. Unlike other toilet projects, this also looks at the whole aspect of hygiene for women," says Menon.
Even though the idea came to him some time ago, it took a couple of months to fine-tune it. He then travelled to many places to find out the ideal material for a toilet-bathroom. He found a lot, but most of it was unaffordable.
Finally, he discovered that discarded shipping containers were the cheapest material to make such toilets. "The toilet-bathroom has all the basic facilities. Besides a shower and closet, it has a washbasin too. Each room is 20 feet tall and eight feet wide. Since it is made from old shipping containers, it's very strong," says Menon, who is also a social worker.
A month ago, Menon installed one such toilet in Manjakkudi, a remote village 40km from Kumbakonam, and the response was encouraging. Menon says his job has not ended with making a toilet.
He has a clear idea about waste disposal and water sources. "Water can be used from the nearby wells and tankers. The waste disposal should be either through existing sewage lines or it can be discharged into a bio-tank. Each side of the unit can be used as an advertising hoarding to generate revenue for maintenance."
Menon is currently working on more such toilets to be supplied to remote areas across Tamil Nadu. "This is not only suitable for the rural women but also helpful for urban poor who live in slums. I will be happy to share it with the Tamil Nadu government if it comes forward to install such toilets in rural areas as well as in slums in the urban areas," he says.