By Zachory Nowosadzki, Global Citizen Policy and Advocacy Intern

The world is in the middle of a toilet crisis right now. Every day, 2.4 billion people live without a place to poop. Millions of others who do, often lack proper disposal and treatment systems for the human waste in their toilets.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the “My Clean India” campaign in 2014, India, as well as the rest of the world, has made serious commitments toward eliminating toilet waste in open spaces. This campaign, which Modi hoped would be driven by patriotism, ambitiously aims to end open defecation by 2019.

Read More: People Get Paid to Use Toilets in India, And It’s Working

While Modi’s campaign hopes to shift cultural norms, making toilet issues “visible” to politicians and world leaders, that is only half the battle. A recent study of 12 cities across developing regions of the world, conducted by the World Bank’s Water Sanitation Program (WSP) found that toilet waste is poorly managed and the issue is essentially “invisible” to policymakers.

At the heart of this crisis is the lack of infrastructure to properly treat toilet waste. This process, known as fecal sludge management (FSM), involves the safe collection, transportation and treatment of human waste. Even in communities that have access to toilets, fecal sludge treatment facilities are often lacking. Thus, toilet waste is often disposed of by unsafe means, including dumping in fresh water sources that provide drinking water.

Read More: How a Lack of Toilets and Clean Water Leads to Stunted Growth

More recently, private philanthropic organizations have stepped in to fill the gaps. Earlier this month, Times of India reported that construction on a FSM Plant in Trichy, India is underway. Construction of this plant, which expects to provide vital services for over 10,000 households currently not connected to the underground sewage system, is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Although a recent survey ranked Trichy as the third cleanest city (out of 73 surveyed), only 34% of the city is connected to the sewage systems that run below the city’s streets. Presently, homes in Trichy not connected to the underground sewage systems often resort to disposing of waste in the Uyyakondan River, which runs through the city, a cause of concern for health of the city.

Read More: Rape, Boko Haram, and Lack of Toilets Create Life-or-Death Situation for Displaced Women in Nigeria

In partnership with two sanitation NGOs, including Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA) from Germany and Consortium for DEWATS Dissemination (CDD) from India, Global Citizen strives to tackle the issue of FSM head at the 4th International Fecal Sludge Management Conference in Chennai, India this week.

Proper FSM can prevent malnutrition, hindered brain development, disease, and diarrhea while promoting health, education and our strong economies. The BORDA and Global Citizen partnership, as well as the 4th International FSM Conference, aim to establish a cohesive platform for combating the detrimental effects of improper FSM. However, this goal cannot be achieved without the support of Global Citizens.

Take Action: Tell World Leader to Provide Equal Access to Sanitation for All


Defeat Poverty

To Achieve Promise of 'My Clean India' Managing Poop Matters

By Zachory Nowosadzki