A Fundraising Campaign from “Local Solutions”
LET’S CHANGE TOILETS IN MONGOLIA
WHY DRY TOILETS MATTER?
Local Solutions and the Capitron Bank of Mongolia have agreed to collaborate in offering Eco Toilet Loans to Mongolian citizens. The purpose of each Eco Toilet loan is to help replace current, poorly functioning toilets with cleanable, odorless, eco-friendly and safe off-grid dry toilets that work in Mongolia’s harsh climate.
Capitron Bank of Mongolia is a commercial bank that has been operating in the Mongolian market since 2001. One of its social-responsibility aims is to help Mongolians adapt to global warming. The bank has committed to releasing up to 500,000,000 tugriks ($203,250 at the exchange rate in June 2018) to kick-start loans to ger (yurt) district dwellers to enable them to replace their current unhealthy and dangerous pit latrines with eco-friendly toilets.
We believe that by supporting affordable, healthy, dry toilets, we not only help people to improve their living conditions immediately, but we also help to tackle bigger problems and challenges, as follows.
1. Reducing the Size of Urban Sewerage Grids Means Reducing Coal Burning
While traveling throughout Mongolia for toilet-improvement training sessions, our team visited Tosontsengel soum of Zavhan province, the coldest town in Mongolia. The soum received 5.0 billion tugriks of government investment in 2014 ($2,500,000 at the rate of 2014) to connect users to a central sewerage facility. The money was not enough to connect all users in the soum, but it was enough to build a sewerage plant, water tank, well, sewerage and water pipes that connect a few large users. By March 2018, the sewerage system had failed since all the pipes and the sewerage facility were frozen in the -52°C of winter cold. The benefits of the billions of tugriks spent on infrastructure investment had disappeared in just a few years.
In other towns and cities, pipes that are installed differently from those in Tosontsengel continue to function during Mongolia’s cold winters. These pipes are usually accompanied by a third pipe — a central-heating pipe. The centralized heating pipes in Mongolia’s cities are designed to lose a lot of heat on their way from the heating plant to the user because they play an important role in keeping sewerage and water pipes warm in wintertime. Thus, the central origin of the heating pipes has to produce a considerable amount of heat that is lost before the pipes reaches their destinations. Moreover, at every cooling point in the central-heating pipe system, reheating boilers must be installed to satisfy the end-users demand for heat and to continue keeping all the pipes from freezing.
Off-grid dry toilets, by contrast, offer decent improvements in sanitation without obliging governments to invest heavily in sewerage grids that end up using enormous amounts of coal, electricity and water.
2. A Gobi Dry-Toilet Model Reduces Natural Gas Emissions
During our nationwide training campaign, our team discovered locally made toilets that have functioned effectively for many years in our cold climate. One such model was discovered in Dalanzadgad soum in Umnugobi Province and was designed by Mr. Tumendelger Khumbaa. Tumendelger’s toilets have worked successfully for seven years by utilizing the Gobi Desert’s aridity as the main tool for sterilizing pathogens, reducing sludge and eliminating odor. The toilet does not exploit any type of biodegradation process, it just dries up the pit contents using a clever air-circulation system and the abundant sand of the Gobi Desert.
Capitron Bank of Mongolia has accepted this model as one of a small number of models that qualify for an Eco Toilet Loan and the “Local Solutions” team is promoting this model in the Gobi.
3. Affordable Toilets Mean Improved Public Health and Less Stress on Hospitals
Toilet-borne diseases put enormous stress on Mongolia’s hospitals. Every year sees increases in the number of cases of diarrhea, hepatitis A, hand-foot-and-mouth disease and other toilet-borne diseases. Families spend their hard-earned small incomes on hospital treatments and medicine because their toilets are unhealthy. Well-trained users of good dry toilets not only experience an improved quality of life, as a result of an affordable investment, but they will also save money in the future by spending less on hospital care. Saving hospital beds means reducing the use of water, energy and sewerage systems, as well as protecting the air from additional pollution due to burning of coal and other fuels.
4. Dry Toilets Will Encourage the Eco-Heating Business and Reduce Air Pollution
Although not directly obvious, dry toilets have another positive effect in Mongolia. They bring the prospect of prosperity to manufacturers of products such as detached heating systems, renewable-energy-based water heaters and other heating solutions that allow the user to be independent of centralized heating systems and pipes. As soon as “Local Solutions” began its campaign to educate the Mongolian public about the many available choices of toilets, many companies that offer products to residents of ger districts were encouraged to offer their non-polluting heating systems to end-users.
If Mongolians cannot find good and affordable dry toilets that work under their local conditions, the only mediators of better living standards will continue to be centrally organized entities. Political parties and government authorities, playing on ger-dwellers' easily understandable aspirations, will continue to offer the heavily invested construction of centrally organized heating and sewerage grids, which require huge amounts of water, electricity and coal.
Such centralized heating and centralized sewerage systems remain core subjects in engineering textbooks, government standardization systems, and government planning offices. They are the only official option for permits and business licensing.
Local Solutions is working with government authorities and business to help them assess and approve standards for dry toilets. The Capitron Bank’s decision to finance loans for Eco Toilets is making a huge difference in this regard. When users are able to choose from among a variety of sanitation systems that will allow them to live more economically but still comfortably, the urge to build an excessive amount of centrally connected housing will be reduced. Instead, businesses that offer detached eco-heating and eco-water heaters, using renewable energy, will thrive.
5. Dry Toilets Help Mongolians to Adapt when Water Supplies Are Limited
One immediate impact of global warming in Mongolia has been the disappearance of surface water. According to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia, during the 2017 water census, there was no water in 774 springs and ponds, 263 rivers and streams, and 346 lakes that previously contained water. Many rivers, lakes and ponds have already disappeared and desertification is rapidly expanding to encompass nearly 80% of the country’s territory. More than 75% of the country’s population lives in a water-stressed area. Economic entities and mining industry are thriving in the Gobi Desert where they exploit and drain water resources in huge and unprecedented amounts. It is essential, therefore, for us to support the use of dry toilets in the Desert, in particular. It will help the local people to adapt as water shortages become extreme and the impact of global warming continues to increase.
6. Dry Toilets Encourage the Planting of More Trees
Two of the five models of dry toilets that “Local Solutions” is advocating to Mongolian users are based on bio-degradation of feces, and one of the models can extract urine as a potential fertilizer. During our nationwide training, many Mongolians heard about bio-fertilizer for the first time. They were amazed that their dry toilets can help support trees in their local arid environment. Many of the trainees promised to plant trees and fertilize them with the contents of their dry toilets. “Local Solutions” will continue to promote the planting of trees and Capitron Bank is considering a tree-planting stimulus for its Eco Toilet loan recipients.
More than 66% of Mongolia’s population has never spent money on toilet construction. They have also never paid for the cleaning or emptying of their pit toilets. Writing or uttering the word "toilet" was socially taboo in public discourse, with businesses, social advocates and communities never mentioning it -- even though soil pollution has been a topic of deep concern for many years. Sanitation services have operated only with regard to city and town grids. Banks never issued loans for changing or upgrading toilets. All this is changing. It is time to encourage a fresh beginning. This new beginning starts with financing toilets and, beyond that, it will help change the current thinking about urban planning in Mongolia. Simple dry toilets, by themselves, can shift Mongolia’s policy from a rigidly focused heavy investment in high-coal-consumption centralized heating systems towards a variety of feasible and eco-friendly options.