Leh, Sep 4: Residents of Ladakh, reeling under a severe water crisis, want tourists to use traditional dry toilets instead of the commonly-used flush ones. The region gets scant rains and depends on glaciers for water for daily needs.
But due to global warming, the glaciers are depleting fast, posing a serious threat to the survival of Ladhakis, says noted Buddhist monk Bhikkhu Sanghasena, the founding president of the Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre.
"The sources of water have also depleted due to the influx of tourists. Hotels have dug submersibles and are sucking up the groundwater.
There is a need for a mechanism to check this practice," he says. To save water, Ladakhis use traditional composting or dry toilets, while most of the hotels in the cities have flush toilets.
"Traditional Ladakhi toilets do not waste or pollute water like water toilets, and they also produce useful manure for fields and trees. Please throw a shovelful of earth down the hole after each use," reads a poster outside a dry toilet in a monastery. Rinchen Dolma, a local, says, "The region is grappling with a severe water shortage. But we have solutions. We use waterless toilets or composting toilets. You cannot even think of using water for sanitation in winters. It freezes. In our houses, we do not even have running taps.
"The tourists should and will have to use dry toilets. They, for their own comfort, cannot play with our lives," she says.
Asked if the composting toilets are odourless, she says, "The climate conditions are such that the excreta does not stink.
So, tourists must not hesitate in making a compromise and using dry toilets. Our houses have composting toilets.
We do not face any such problem." Students here are also strongly in favour of tourists using dry toilets.
Sonam Angma, a class IX student at Mahabodhi Residential School, says: "We have been using dry toilets for long and they are completely safe. We see no reasons why tourists should not use them. The plus point is that the bacterial action breaks down the waste and then it can be put to use in the field. It is a good manure for crops."
A composting toilet has two levels--a toilet on the top and a composting unit underneath. After using the toilet, a bit of dirt is shovelled down the hole to cover the waste and block the foul smell.
More importantly, it aids decomposition of the excreta. Manish Wasuja, a sanitation expert from UNICEF-India, said, "The decomposition process takes more time in composting toilets as the temperature in places like Leh is very low. But local people have been using them for a long time now. Therefore, they are habitual of dry toilets."