Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Sanitation is not usually in the thoughts of Andover students: we often forget that it matters where our waste goes. As representatives of the students in Science 435: Global Sanitation, taught by Rajesh Mundra, Instructor in Biology, we want to bring the issue to the forefront of people’s minds. From an early age, we learned to flush our poop away and to wash our hands while singing “Happy Birthday” twice. We knew that toilets magically took away what has been deemed untouchable.

But in the developing world, proper waste containment is a significant problem: 2.6 billion people in the world lack improved sanitation, and more than 2,000 children die every day from diarrheal disease spread by fecal pathogens in drinking water. Some girls do not attend school during menstruation because they cannot access safe sanitation facilities in school. Some women risk their lives defecating in dangerous public spaces, like railroad tracks, late at night.

While many of us take expensive water-based sanitation, like toilets and septic tanks, for granted, this conventional waste-disposal system is not always conducive to the developing world. In many areas, there simply is not enough infrastructure, funding or water to use a toilet and sewage system. Still, people – and industry – often consider toilets the only solution to the sanitation issue. More and more advances in sanitation technology, however, such as latrines that separate urine and feces or toilets that create energy when they are used, have proved otherwise. Innovative solutions like these, tailored to the different needs of each community, need to be the focus of our attention. The alternative, for many, is open defecation, allowing human waste to enter water sources untreated, polluting the water supply and transmitting diseases like cholera and rotavirus.

We should not be afraid to challenge the cultural taboo around waste. We need to begin to understand the needs of developing communities and acknowledge that decentralized sewage systems, not our pristine porcelain, may be the answer: impoverished rural and urban squatter populations simply cannot access and afford the urban infrastructure necessary for centralized sewage and flush toilets. Contingency plans need to be considered through open and public discussion of the health risks of poor waste disposal, and the problems with certain popularized systems.

Our Sanitation class challenges the Andover community to think about what we are privileged enough not to: where our poop goes. We are a student body with the immense power to make a change that addresses the needs of the developing community. When you see the words “latrine,” “urine” or “excreta,” don’t recoil (it’s okay to laugh, we still do), but look into the issues and organizations that are trying to raise awareness and funding. There are lives at stake — we need to be asking more questions.


Bianca Navarro Bowman ’15

Claire Park ’16


Sharan Gill ’16

Hilary Gillis ’15

Claire Jacobson ’15

Karina Keus ’15

Olivia Legaspi ’15

Kelli Mackey ’15

Nora McNamara-Bordewick ’16

Benjamin Reinisch ’15

Tamar Sifri ’16

Monica Traniello ’15

Carson Wardell ’16

Claire Wolford ’15