On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 145th birth anniversary, Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi on 2nd Oct 2014 launched the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India mission). The mission has already picked up huge momentum and seeks participation of all citizens from different age groups. Amongst other issues, access to toilets in the rural areas and urban slums is a major challenge to ‘Clean India’. According to a UN report, India continues to have the largest number of people in the world defecating in the open. Poor and inadequate sanitation leads to health-related problems resulting in economic and social losses. This is where bamboo can be come in by lending itself as a cost effective and eco-friendly material to build toilets and thereby play a very important role in ‘Clean India’ mission.
Bamboo is has always been popular as a building material, especially in house-building and is now widely regarded as the super material of the 21st century for its diversified uses. It is one of the fastest growing and highest yielding renewable natural resource making it a good substitute to wood in mitigating pressure on natural forests. Bamboo is a family of grass, it matures in as little as 4 to 6 years much faster than hardwood trees which can take 20 years or more to reach maturity. It sends out new shoots after each harvest and has unrivalled capacity to capture carbon. Bamboo has big income generating capabilities for people living in rural areas through bamboo cultivation. Its usage needs to be promoted – leveraging this super material as a sustainable solution to sanitation challenges in areas that still do not have access to proper toilets will not only help in ‘Clean India Mission’ but also help the cause of leveraging bamboo as an economic tool to drive socio economic development of India, which incidentally also has the second largest bamboo reserves in the world. Bamboo walls & partitions panels, bamboo floors and corrugated bamboo roofing sheets, including Bamboo toilet seats can all be part of such toilets. Bamboo, indeed has tremendous potential not only to transform India’s rural economy, but also to contribute to the sustainable development efforts.