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  • I am an engineering professor,

  • and for the past 14 years

  • I've been teaching crap.

  • (Laughter)

  • Not that I'm a bad teacher,

  • but I've been studying and teaching

  • about human waste

  • and how waste is conveyed

  • through these wastewater treatment plants,

  • and how we engineer and design

  • these treatment plants so that we can protect

  • surface water like rivers.

  • I've based my scientific career

  • on using leading-edge molecular techniques,

  • DNA- and RNA-based methods

  • to look at microbial populations in biological reactors,

  • and again to optimize these systems.

  • And over the years,

  • I have developed an unhealthy obsession with toilets,

  • and I've been known to sneak into toilets

  • and take my camera phone

  • all over the world.

  • But along the way, I've learned

  • that it's not just the technical side,

  • but there's also this thing called the culture of crap.

  • So for example,

  • how many of you are washers

  • and how many of you are wipers?

  • (Laughter)

  • If, well, I guess you know what I mean.

  • If you're a washer, then you use water

  • for anal cleansing. That's the technical term.

  • And if you're a wiper,

  • then you use toilet paper

  • or, in some regions of the world

  • where it's not available, newspaper

  • or rags or corncobs.

  • And this is not just a piece of trivia,

  • but it's really important to understand

  • and solve the sanitation problem.

  • And it is a big problem:

  • There are 2.5 billion people in the world

  • who don't have access to adequate sanitation.

  • For them, there's no modern toilet.

  • And there are 1.1 billion people

  • whose toilets are the streets

  • or river banks or open spaces,

  • and again, the technical term for that is

  • open defecation,

  • but that is really simply

  • shitting in the open.

  • And if you're living in fecal material

  • and it's surrounding you, you're going to get sick.

  • It's going to get into your drinking water,

  • into your food, into your immediate surroundings.

  • So the United Nations estimates

  • that every year, there are 1.5 million child deaths

  • because of inadequate sanitation.

  • That's one preventable death every 20 seconds,

  • 171 every hour,

  • 4,100 every day.

  • And so, to avoid open defecation,

  • municipalities and cities

  • build infrastructure, for example, like pit latrines,

  • in peri-urban and rural areas.

  • For example, in KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa,

  • they've built tens of thousands of these pit latrines.

  • But there's a problem when you scale up

  • to tens of thousands, and the problem is,

  • what happens when the pits are full?

  • This is what happens.

  • People defecate around the toilet.

  • In schools, children defecate on the floors

  • and then leave a trail outside the building

  • and start defecating around the building,

  • and these pits have to be cleaned

  • and manually emptied.

  • And who does the emptying?

  • You've got these workers

  • who have to sometimes go down into the pits

  • and manually remove the contents.

  • It's a dirty and dangerous business.

  • As you can see, there's no protective equipment,

  • no protective clothing.

  • There's one worker down there.

  • I hope you can see him.

  • He's got a face mask on, but no shirt.

  • And in some countries, like India,

  • the lower castes are condemned

  • to empty the pits,

  • and they're further condemned by society.

  • So you ask yourself, how can we solve this

  • and why don't we just build Western-style flush toilets

  • for these two and a half billion?

  • And the answer is, it's just not possible.

  • In some of these areas, there's not enough water,

  • there's no energy,

  • it's going to cost tens of trillions of dollars

  • to lay out the sewer lines

  • and to build the facilities

  • and to operate and maintain these systems,

  • and if you don't build it right,

  • you're going to have flush toilets

  • that basically go straight into the river,

  • just like what's happening in many cities

  • in the developing world.

  • And is this really the solution?

  • Because essentially, what you're doing is

  • you're using clean water

  • and you're using it to flush your toilet,

  • convey it to a wastewater treatment plant

  • which then discharges to a river,

  • and that river, again, is a drinking water source.

  • So we've got to rethink sanitation,

  • and we've got to reinvent the sanitation infrastructure,

  • and I'm going to argue that to do this,

  • you have to employ systems thinking.

  • We have to look at the whole sanitation chain.

  • We start with a human interface,

  • and then we have to think about how feces

  • are collected and stored,

  • transported, treated and reused

  • and not just disposal but reuse.

  • So let's start with the human user interface.

  • I say, it doesn't matter if you're a washer or a wiper,

  • a sitter or a squatter,

  • the human user interface should be clean

  • and easy to use, because after all,

  • taking a dump should be pleasurable.

  • (Laughter)

  • And when we open the possibilities

  • to understanding this sanitation chain,

  • then the back-end technology,

  • the collection to the reuse, should not really matter,

  • and then we can apply

  • locally adoptable and context-sensitive solutions.

  • So we can open ourselves to possibilities like,

  • for example, this urine-diverting toilet,

  • and there's two holes in this toilet.

  • There's the front and the back,

  • and the front collects the urine,

  • and the back collects the fecal material.

  • And so what you're doing is you're separating the urine,

  • which has 80 percent of the nitrogen

  • and 50 percent of the phosphorus,

  • and then that can then be treated

  • and precipitated to form things like struvite,

  • which is a high-value fertilizer,

  • and then the fecal material can then be disinfected

  • and again converted to high-value end products.

  • Or, for example, in some of our research,

  • you can reuse the water by treating it

  • in on-site sanitation systems

  • like planter boxes or constructed wetlands.

  • So we can open up all these possibilities

  • if we take away the old paradigm of flush toilets

  • and treatment plants.

  • So you might be asking, who's going to pay?

  • Well, I'm going to argue that governments

  • should fund sanitation infrastructure.

  • NGOs and donor organizations,

  • they can do their best, but it's not going to be enough.

  • Governments should fund sanitation

  • the same way they fund roads

  • and schools and hospitals

  • and other infrastructure like bridges,

  • because we know, and the WHO has done this study,

  • that for every dollar that we invest

  • in sanitation infrastructure,

  • we get something like three to 34 dollars back.

  • Let's go back to the problem of pit emptying.

  • So at North Carolina State University,

  • we challenged our students to come up with a simple solution,

  • and this is what they came up with:

  • a simple, modified screw auger

  • that can move the waste up

  • from the pit and into a collecting drum,

  • and now the pit worker

  • doesn't have to go down into the pit.

  • We tested it in South Africa, and it works.

  • We need to make it more robust,

  • and we're going to do more testing

  • in Malawi and South Africa this coming year.

  • And our idea is to make this

  • a professionalized pit-emptying service

  • so that we can create a small business out of it,

  • create profits and jobs,

  • and the hope is that,

  • as we are rethinking sanitation,

  • we are extending the life of these pits

  • so that we don't have to resort

  • to quick solutions

  • that don't really make sense.

  • I believe that access to adequate sanitation

  • is a basic human right.

  • We need to stop the practice

  • of lower castes and lower-status people

  • going down and being condemned to empty pits.

  • It is our moral, it is our social

  • and our environmental obligation.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I am an engineering professor,

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B1 TED sanitation pit toilet flush infrastructure

【TED】Francis de los Reyes: Sanitation is a basic human right (Francis de los Reyes: Sanitation is a basic human right)

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    CUChou posted on 2014/12/10
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