Bill and Melinda Gates’ eponymous foundation is offering Chinese researchers grants worth 30 million yuan to ‘reengineer the common toilet’ to be more environmentally friendly and cost-effective.
Each grantee would receive between $100,000 to $500,000 to realize their toilet designs, said Professor Li Zifu, with the University of Science & Technology Beijing, which has been entrusted to implement the project.
Doulaye Kone, senior program officer of water, sanitation and hygiene with the foundation, said, “China is the first country we have launched such an independent grant, and we hope this will improve access among Chinese inventors to the project.”
While people in the developed world take flush toilets for granted, research shows that 40 percent of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – practice open defecation or lack adequate sanitation facilities.
Even in urban areas, where household and communal toilets are more prevalent, 2.1 billion people use toilets connected to septic tanks that are not safely emptied or use other systems that discharge raw sewage into open drains or surface waters.
“The consequences can be devastating for human health as well as the environment,” Dr. Doulaye Kone said.
Poor sanitation contributes to 1.5 million child deaths from diarrhea each year. Chronic diarrhea can also hinder child development and impede the absorption vaccines, he said.