Friday, January 4, 2008

Now, doors and windows made of human excreta

You could pass this off as a prank but making doors and windows out of human faeces is now possible. Mexico-based sculptors Santiago Sierra and Mariana David and India’s very own sanitation whiz Sulabh International have together evolved a technology of making strong, durable and waterproof doors and windows from human faeces.

Sierra and David had in early 2005 contacted Sulabh International’s founder- Bindeshwar Pathak to discuss their idea of making ‘environment-friendly doors’ from human excreta, which could be an alternative to the usual wooden or metal doors and windows.

“The Mexican sculptors had read about Sulabh’s work and contacted us in early 2005. I was extremely surprised when they told me about their idea of making furniture from human waste and I initially thought it was impossible as such a thing was unheard of. But they assured me it could work wonders and we went ahead with the experiment,” Pathak told DNA.

Sulabh International supplied the raw material (manure made from human faeces, collected from Sulabh lavatories) to the two sculptors who then mixed it with some chemicals and adhesives to come up with strong planks of human waste. These were then used to make the doors and windows. In a span of two years, Sierra and David have made 22 such doors.

These doors have now made there way to an exhibition at the Lisson Art Gallery of London, where they have caught the fancy of a huge audience. One of the doors has been kept at the Delhi-based Sulabh Museum of Toilets.

“Though Sierra’s intention behind the experiment was to use sculpture to create awareness about the ‘superior use of human waste’, I think the experiment will go a long way to protect the environment by saving millions of trees which are felled for timber requirements,” said Pathak. However, Pathak clarified that the experiment may not find many takers in India due to the society’s way of thinking here. But the experiment has provided a good enough reason to experiment further with human faeces.

Dr Pathak said that art lovers and designers are showing deep interests in these doors during the exhibition. They are planning to visit Sulabh to get the first-hand experience of the door-making process. He said that these doors would also be displayed in Munich Gallery in Germany.

Research is on to optimise the use of manure converted from human excreta. Researchers are trying to make different kinds of furniture, doors and other sculptures out of it.

The discovery is another feather in the cap of Sulabh International, a household name in the field of sanitation, not only in India but at global level.

The United Nations had recently recognised the efforts of Sulabh and contribution of its founder Dr Pathak for implementing “Total Sanitation campaign” through the indigenous two-pit toilet technology now commonaly popular as Sulabh Shauchalayas.

Dr Pathak had introduced two-pit toilet technique which became very popular throughout the world. The Sulabh technology is scientifically appropriate, economically affordable and culturally acceptable by several international organisations like the World Bank, WHO, UNICEF and UNDP.

For more than three decades Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, who founded the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, has been promoting toilets that are cheap to build and don't require a sewer connection.


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