Pee and poo could solve some mass adventure tourism problems

Adventure Travel Blog Magazine

Sep-Oct 2016


Properly composted pee and poop could provide safe humus for the kitchen garden of the campsites and keep the wilderness clean. As our ancestors did in the Himalayas for centuries. Live like natives of the Himalayas to enjoy the beauty and challenge for many more centuries.

For example, Lahaul and Spiti, cold desert areas, have thin vegetation cover. The natives therefore cannot maintain a large number of animals. This reduces production of organic manure. The agriculture output thus suffers.  The natives of these deserts found ways to use their own pee and poop to create organic manure. They developed method of dry composting toilets.

Compost is decayed organic substance used as manure.
Composting is a process of converting organic waste into compost.

These toilets are built on the first floors of the houses. Each toilet simply has a rectangular hole in the floor. Use of water is almost prohibited in these toilets. The pee and poop fall into specially constructed chambers on the ground floor. After each use, the waste is covered with a mixture of ash from kitchen, dry animal dung, dry leaves, and / or dry grass. These organic coverings keep the flies away, stop foul smell, and add nutrients to the compost. The pee and poop (night-soil) decomposes in these chambers for six months or more. Then the compost is removed from the chambers and collected in the fields and left for 4-5 months for completion of composting. And then used as manure in the fields. Another cold desert, Ladakh also had a similar tradition of dry composting toilets.

But the natives of these deserts are replacing the traditional toilets with modern water flush toilets for convenience and catering to high number of tourists. Another reason ascribed to this unmindful change is social status. The natives using water flush toilets are considered modern. This is not right. This new practice does not align with local natural landscape and resources. For example, Ladakh faces shortage of water due to (1) nominal precipitation, especially in Leh and (2) receding water table owing to overuse.

But can you cheat nature?

No you cannot. The nature forces you to do the right thing  sooner or later.

For example, during winter, temperature goes to -40 degree Celsius in Ladakh. The water freezes, then flush does not work. But people like to be modern. So some Ladakhis construct a pair of toilets in the houses, water flush and dry for two different seasons.

Before nature forces us again and the mass adventure tourism problems grow to unmanageable proportions, we should mend our ways. For example, this toilet could be a good fit for the camping cooperatives because locals already have know-how of a budget- and eco-friendly method of waste disposal. Then why look at ugly urban ways of the disposal.

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