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Santa Clara University

Publication Date

Fall 2017

Program Name

India: Sustainable Development and Social Change


Of all the countries in the world, India has the highest number of people practicing open defecation, causing adverse health outcomes from the unconfined spread of faecal matter. The Government of India is ambitiously aiming to end this practice through the construction of 12 million toilets by 2019, but historically, many toilets across India have gone unused. This study focused on understanding: (1) the reasons why people continue to openly defecate despite having toilets and (2) the requirements of a toilet that rural households would be willing to use. Along with 36 observations of household toilets, semi-structured group (n=8) and individual interviews (n=40) were conducted with community members, government officials, and NGO workers in a tribal and water-scarce area of Rajasthan, India where the government had built toilets that were mostly being unused. Through analysis of descriptive statistics and common themes raised through interviews, findings showed that these government toilets were often poorly constructed and inconvenient to use. Participants expressed the desire for an odor-free latrine that required little water, was large enough to comfortably sit in, and wouldn’t fill up quickly. At the same time, misconceptions regarding latrine usage also persisted. There thus exists a need for an affordable toilet design addressing these specifications, along with educational awareness campaigns to correct these misconceptions.


Asian Studies | Environmental Engineering | Health Policy | Human Ecology | Place and Environment | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Public Health | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Urban, Community and Regional Planning


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