NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Improved Sewage Treatment Needed in Third World Countries

February 3, 2004

Over 2.4 billion people -- 40 percent of the world's population -- lack proper sanitation. Sadly, about three million children under the age of five are killed every year by diarrhea, a relatively benign ailment in the developed world. In order to remedy this ongoing problem, many have advocated the use of dry toilets in lieu of flush toilets because they are not water dependent -- a resource that can be scarce in some underdeveloped countries.

However, health expert Michael Fumento says that dismissing flush-toilet systems, which have made waterborne illness virtually non-existent in the West, does not make any sense. The reasons he offers are four-fold:

  • Though water resources are a concern, some underdeveloped countries, such as Bangladesh, have an abundant water supply.
  • Unlike ore or fossil fuels, water is not a resource that can be used up -- reusing is only a matter of cleaning it.
  • Dry toilets are little more than indoor outhouses, but they provide a dwelling for disease-carrying insects and must be emptied inside one's own home.
  • Dry toilets are also expensive, costing four to eight times as much as flush toilets.

Instead, Fumento argues that what is need are better and cheaper sewage treatments. New technologies exist that make installing and operating treatment systems increasingly inexpensive -- the cost per household would be less than a quarter of what is paid by North America and Europe. Perhaps most importantly, the third world can self-finance the development of its own treatment systems through adopting free market economic policies.

Source: Michael Fumento, "The Battle over Toilets for All,", January 15, 2004.

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