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Press Release 
Jay Bhagwan  

Moving towards a moveable toilet structure  

South Africa faces a huge challenge when it comes to dealing with sanitation issues. In cases where Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) desludging proves difficult, new pits can be dug and the superstructure moved. However, with conventional brick-and-mortar superstructures this is near impossible. Research initiated and funded by the Water Research Commission (WRC) into lightweight moveable super structures for VIPs has resulted in a groundbreaking and innovative product. The University of Pretoria (UP) has developed a modular and high-strength light-weight moveable VIP superstructure, which uses 60% less material and can be developed through LED (Local Economic Development) activities in communities.  The product and technology also has a lower cost in comparison to current trends and a lower carbon footprint.

The prototype superstructure is constructed from pre-cast high-strength concrete panels. The whole structure, including the slab, weighs less than 500 kg, and uses advanced materials to achieve strength and robustness. The system has been developed as a modular unit which can be manufactured insitu( with supervision) and assembled in local communities by trained artisans.  According to the project leader, Prof. Elsabe Kearsley from the School of Civil and Biosystems Engineering in UP, the structure can be assembled in less than 30 minutes.

According to Mr Jay Bhagwan from the WRC, this technology provides a solution to most municipalities’ dilemmas of dealing with huge sanitation problems related to the emptying of full pits. The emptying of pits can be costly, time consuming and pose health hazards. Having a lightweight superstructure has been found to be an alternative solution, as it can either be moved by the household to facilitate ease of desludging the pit or dissembled easily and the same panels assembled over a new pit. 

In the WRC study (TT 440) “Basic Sanitation Services in South Africa Learning from the Past and, Planning for the Future”, mention is given of detailed findings from various case studies of households experiencing problems regarding the construction of their toilets.

A single case study of Phungalutho, in Nadi, KZN, reveals that a government subsidy of R600 for each household receiving a VIP latrine could not cover the cost of the superstructure and the householder had to contribute towards the finishing costs. As the householders were free to finish the construction of the superstructure themselves, not all were finished to a good standard and, as a consequence, some have collapsed. Out of 25 households visited in Mbazwana area, in 2005, the study found that four of the latrine superstructures had collapsed which rendered them unusable; yet they were not full.

Bhagwan says that the technology is being placed in the public domain since it is of national interest; however, the incentive is also there to allow aspiring municipalities and locally-based entrepreneurs to get involved in sanitation delivery by absorbing the technology. The WRC has compiled comprehensive guides for the manufacturing and construction of the Lightweight VIP superstructure.  The technology can be adapted to meet the requirements of other technical alternatives.

For more information contact:

Jay Bhagwan

 Director: Water Use and Waste Management

 Tel: 012 330 9042

 E-mail: jayb@wrc.org.za


University of Pretoria team demonstrating the construction of the toilet within 30 minutes 
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