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close this book Water purification, distribution and sewage disposal for Peace Corps volunteers
close this folder Section 7: Scope of disposal system projects in host communities
View the document Overview:
View the document Public health importance of excreta disposal
View the document How disease is carried from excreta
View the document The characteristics of an adequate system
View the document Possible sanitary measures in rural areas
View the document Soil and ground-water pollution
View the document Location of latrines and other excreta disposal facilities
View the document Sludge accumulation and the life of a pit privy
View the document Community participation
View the document Family participation
View the document Role of health department and other agencies
View the document Public versus private latrines
View the document Human factors
View the document Lesson plans

Public versus private latrines

Public latrines, or "multiple unit" types, are usually constructed in markets, camps, schools, factories, slum districts, and similar localities. They are also useful in other places where large numbers of persons congregate occasionally, provided that permanent and close attention is available to ensure cleanliness and proper operation.

Except in unusual circumstances though, multiple units should never be substituted for the individual family latrine. True, it Is cheaper and less troublesome to construct a few communal latrines in a community than to build a large number of individual latrines at the rate of one unit per family. In addition, a good solution to each family's excrete disposal problem is not always easy to find. For such reasons the construction of the communal type of excrete disposal facility was accepted In the past, even in urban communities. However, it was discovered after a few years' use that these public latrines were employed by only a portion of the population for which they were intended, the remaining group continuing the original practice of defaecating anywhere. It was then believed that two reasons for this situation were inadequate design and the lack of cleanliness. Attempts were made to improve these elements; but in most cases, communal latrines, irrespective of the type of design, proved to be failures.

It should be pointed out that the community is generally made responsible for the maintenance of public units. Usually communal administrations are notoriously poor and ineffective at maintaining even the utilities that offer great convenience, such as water works and electric light systems, let alone a commune, privy which many do not consider essential in any case. This does not mean that the construction of public latrines should be disregarded; but keep their limitations in mind and remember that they will not be automatically and efficiently maintained by the community. The truth is that the communal authorities must be prodded on this important matter of maintenance-as much as, or more than, the family. So long as the effort to ensure good maintenance must be made, it is decidedly better to spend it on the family, on whom there is hope of its eventually having the desired effect. Families will usually keep their own latrines clean and in proper operation with only occasional guidance from the public health inspector.

Public latrines, therefore, should be built only where absolutely necessary and should be designed to facilitate maintenance and constructed for permanence, as far as possible. They must be kept clean at all times, for, unless cleanliness is observed, they will not be used. Water and other materials must be available for use in keeping the latrines clean.