This is New Delhi just weeks before Coronavirus paralyze the world.
I was there in February to report on a problem that's more enduring and can be just as deadly.
It's a lack of access to toilets.
I went to India to learn about this issue, which is now even more difficult during the pandemic, and see how technology can help fix it.
These are government toilets here, they're Basically the most of them are just overflowing ship.
They're completely unusable.
So I'm gonna open up another one.
Now, this is basically like they have toilets here but nobody can really use them.
Yeah, so here's another one.
This is the 4th one in a row.
One in four people in India, over 344 million and all don't have regular access to toilets, which results in over 100,000 deaths every year.
While tonnes of work has been done to lower this number, India remains the world leader by far in open defecation.
This is a small encampment of tents in Faridabad south of New Delhi, where a group of a few dozen nomadic Banjara people live outdoors.
Many are women and.
The space is a small example of a much bigger problem across India.
We all have a big problem when going to the toilet.
So we use open fields to relieve ourselves as there is no proper toilet.
The public toilet is quite far, and it is not maintained well, so it's filthy.
It is pretty hectic.
This is Mike Mita.
He's an entrepreneur from Faridabad who started a company called garff.
A smart sanitation firm that builds bathrooms infused with tech and durable materials to make them safer and last longer.
Issue in the developing economies.
Most of the developed economies you would see that the toilets, the sanitation facilities do get made, but the government also funds the projects.
But what happens is, after months, most of these facilities end up being dysfunctional.
And that is largely because of the fact that the solid facilities get vandalized easily because these are in the public space and community spaces, and the fact that they do not get maintained regularly.
But this isn't just a problem for tenting cabinets and slums.
People in major cities and huge swaths of rural areas face similar issues.
Especially women and children.
A lot of girls drop out of the school during adolescent period because during menstruation they find it really difficult to find clean toilets.
So either they miss the school during those days or they completely drop out of the school.
Also because of lack of sanitation facilities, women have to wait for the dark hours.
Which leads to harassment and there is a lot of issues, safety related issues too.
Open defecation also exposes people to viruses and bacteria including cholera, typhoid and polio.
There's a clear recognition of this problem and a huge national effort to fix it.
The swach Bharat, or clean India mission started in 2014 to build toilets across India, and it's so far installed over 100 million of them.
This work has sparked a lot of new innovations, including a new feature on google maps that lets people find public toilets near them.
Seeing an opportunity to join this effort.
My uncle left a stable job at Tata consulting one of the biggest it firms in India to go into the less acclaimed world of sanitation.
noticing that public toilets often fall into disrepair.
He used his background and metalwork to create more robust toilets using steel.
The more expensive models include automated flushing and floor cleaning, as well as sensors in each stall and sink.
They use SIM cards to relay valuable hygiene information to local officials.
Some models also include solar panels for the lights and biodigesters to convert waste into fertilizer.
We also integrated the toilet system with IoT infrastructure.
Where we are able to track it in real time how the toilets are being made, how the towels are being used, plus, whether they are being maintained or not.
In real time we get to know if there are any malfunctions.
Moreover, we are also able to track the user hygiene aspects where we get to know how many people have used the toilet What percentage of them have washed their hands or whether they are flushing the toilets or not?
What amount of water is being used?
So these are the things that we basically track in real time.
And it helps us build a strong connection with the community as well.
If we are doing community mobilization activities, we know what is the real problem of the community.
If it is hand washing, we work with them very specifically towards hand washing
Here's where Garv builds his toilets.
It's a simple place with a dirt floor, but they've manufactured more than 1,000 toilets here that are already being used in schools, rural villages, and public spaces throughout India.
Mayank is now working to bring us toilets to more places like gas stations, and transit stops.
He says these installations already have about 200,000 users every day including 60,000 schoolchildren.
On COVID we have introduced UV light.
Our toilet systems where and after.
Since the pandemic mayank has been working on adding ultraviolet lights into his company's toilets, which should help kill off lurking coronavirus between uses.
There are plenty of questions about Garff and Swach Bharat.
Yes, a 100 million toilets were built but will they be maintained properly?
And will people change the behavior.
And when to use them.
And our Garv's high tech toilets, which can cost nearly $5,000 each, too expensive and will take too long to build a lot more of them out.
The good news is that all this work has resulted in huge gains over the past ten years, cutting down the number of people without access to toilets in nearly half.
That's hundreds of millions of people.
And [UNKNOWN] is well aware of the challenges, and seems unwavering in his plans.
Seeing a huge opportunity to help the poorest in India gain back their dignity.
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