FIVE YEARS AGO, any mention of the village Gudel usually induced giggles amongst Nepalese. This was because the first syllable—‘Gu’—of its name is the Nepali word for faeces. This unfortunate homophony was compounded by Gudel’s poor sanitary practices. Residents didn’t have modern toilets, and were habituated to squatting in the open, or using the pig toilets next to their houses, which are clustered together on a cirque. These toilets comprised planks in sheds of wood and stone constructed above pig pens—waste that fell into the pens would be consumed by the pigs, which were being reared for meat.
Today, Gudel, in Nepal’s northeastern district of Solukhumbu, has a very different reputation. Between each house and its pig pen is a toilet made of chiselled stone blocks and corrugated metal roofing. Signboards, like the one outside the Namaste Lodge and Restaurant, near Gudel’s central secondary school, declare the village’s improved sanitary conditions with the words: “Open Defecation Free Area Gudel, Solukhumbu.”
A little over a billion of the poorest people in the world defecate in the open, the largest number of them in India. Open defecation contaminates drinking water sources and food, with deadly diseases like cholera and typhoid. Pig toilet use, though not officially categorised as open defecation, carries many of the same risks, since faeces remains in the pig pen, and is not safely disposed of and confined. As with open defecation, this faeces can contaminate ground water through the soil, and, through flies and other carriers, contaminate food.
Already a subscriber? Sign in