No water in these closets

The city of Durban is offering residents $4 a week for their stored urine, which can be turned into fertilizer

No water in these closets

Outhouse in Durban | Rajesh Jantilal/AFP/Getty Images

The south african city of Durban is buying urine from its residents in a bizarre scheme to reduce water usage and increase sanitation. The port city installed waterless toilets in the gardens of 90,000 homes in 2002, following a cholera outbreak brought on by a widespread lack of access to proper washrooms. But as soon as the modern outhouses—which funnel urine and feces into tanks attached outside—were installed, residents started converting them into shacks, living rooms and garages, or tearing them down. Some believe close contact with waste brings misfortune; others simply saw an opportunity to grab raw materials or add on to their houses.

Now, in an effort to get people to actually use the toilets, the city is offering residents $4 a week for their stored urine, which can be turned into fertilizer. With almost half the city surviving on less then $2 a day, Teddy Gounden, who heads the project, told the AFP news agency he hopes the money might just be enough to overcome superstition: “South Africa is a water-stressed country. We cannot afford to flush this valuable resource down the sewer.”




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