I got the local mason Palani and went to work with him over two days. The squatting design works as follows:
There are two defecating holes with a urinating pan in between. Underneath each hole, a vault has to be created. While one is in use, the other is idle. Once full, the vaults are switched and the contents of the filled vault is allowed to decompose, which is usually over a six month period. The vaults are usually above ground. Mine are about 2′ high and 1.5′ square, which makes them 4.5 cubic feet each. For clearing the contents, one of the vault walls has to be easily removable. Paul told me over the phone that doors don’t quite work and that I was better off putting in a loosely mortared wall. Although not mentioned anywhere, I am glad I put in a system to vent the vaults to make them odour proof.
There need to be steps to climb the two feet height and this became awkward to engineer in the space we had, in the current washroom. Squatting atop that height could be a heady challenge to some. To me hoisting myself after a squat is a challenge. To help with both situations, I engineered and put in a wooden frame which you can seen in the photo alongside. Also seen in the photo, to the right is a pan. This is for washing the anus after a squat. One is required to swing 90degrees, position oneself over the basin and wash up. This requirement has been difficult for us to master.
The structure got built somehow, Palani and I designing workarounds as we went. There were three pipes to be led out. One carrying urine, another carrying anal wash water and the third venting the top of the vault. [For a few days after we began to use it, the air vent was not properly installed; a pervasive stench filled the washroom until we fixed the vent properly]. It was quite a feat to install all the three pipes in the cramped space underneath and to lead them out.
The ecosan system has been in use by three people for over a month now. We quite easily got over any apprehensions over using it. We use old newspaper as bum wipes and drop them into the vault. After each use sawdust and ash is spread over and the lid is closed. The odour vent working, the toilet is smell-free.Urine and bath water are led to a shallow pit filled with biomass. At the edges of the pit banana and papaya are planted. It is too soon to tell the outcome.
Washing up is after climbing down and in the bath area. This is an unused part of the Eco-solutions design. Our verdict on the design is this: Get into it only if you are a handyman or a trained mason is available.