UPDATE 10:34AM, 4/16 SEE END OF POST
Right now, India has more cell phones than toilets. That's the headline buzzing over the wires today, thanks to the latest phones-to-toilets ratio released by the United Nations. It's certainly a dramatic factoid. But it's not just true of India's 1.2 billion-strong population — this lopsided statistic is true around the globe, as well.
This is from the Change.org Global Poverty blog. The most obvious explanation:
And though the mobile sector has seen massive private investment — thanks in many countries to telecommunications deregulation — few corporations are clamoring to provide better sanitation for the poor.
(This picture is from an earlier Aid Watch blog reporting a happy encounter with the private sector toilet service industry in Ghana.)
UPDATE 10:34AM: I had underestimated the amount of interest and effort devoted to poor people's toilets in the story above. Somehow I had missed one of the hottest stories in the burgeoning lavatory sector (covered in the NYT, HT IdealistNYC): the Peepoo :
A Swedish entrepreneur is trying to market and sell a biodegradable plastic bag that acts as a single-use toilet for urban slums in the developing world.
Once used, the bag can be knotted and buried, and a layer of urea crystals breaks down the waste into fertilizer, killing off disease-producing pathogens found in feces.
The bag, called the Peepoo, is the brainchild of Anders Wilhelmson, an architect and professor in Stockholm.
“Not only is it sanitary,” said Mr. Wilhelmson, who has patented the bag, “they can reuse this to grow crops.”
Please continue to forward me links for this rapidly exploding story.