December 8 - 14, 2013: Issue 140

 The Process Of ‘Sustainabilizing’ Sanitation

 The Process Of ‘Sustainabilizing’ Sanitation
by Lucinda Rose 

Within permaculture design is the practice of placing water catchments uphill, upstream, up, to collect rain water and thus use the earthwards momentum of gravity to guide it to the desired destinations. High water catchments have been implemented in Soibada, however more development is both needed and planned in both this unique village and Tasi Fatin, a ‘suburb’ of Soibada tucked away in high rocky mountains.
More than that, we need a plan of action, a timetable, a construct, a workable model of how water can be transported from the river effectively, how water can be most beneficially used by the people from the small creeks running through the village, how sanitation – for both water and sewage – can be managed, how rubbish can be disposed of without releasing excess smoke into the atmosphere, and most importantly how the community can achieve this in a way that is in harmony with their cultural way of life. 

With the intention of setting out to achieve this arise the usual blocks… money, method, effort and collaboration of the two communities that join together in doing this – more often than not ‘aid’ playing a crucial role in providing the economic means to achieve such ends. I remember someone saying to me in Soibada, on a walk down one of the village roads, how the Timorese take great pride in building their houses, made from a bamboo, hardened straw type of material, mud bricks made from water, clay and grass, if they can get the materials. However, as we walked, we often spotted houses unfinished, some half-painted, others missing considerable parts such as sections of roof and walls. They aren’t finished because they can’t afford to finish them, and by the time the money comes, the incentive, desire to finish them has evaporated – just like metres of the river during dry season.
What I am imagining, is, another way of perceiving, understanding and even going about sustainable development. Of course different forms of trade has been the system used as far back in human (maybe even animal) evolution as has possibly existed, however what would it mean to trade with an intention, skill, motivation or collaborative, community vision in mind? This isn’t a new idea. This is probably what it was more like historically, yet it would be understood and applied differently with the development of the world we have experienced in especially the last fifty years, and the increasing sustainably minded approaches being created.
I see a solution through permaculture, through creative collaboration of both first and third world. Both have important perspectives to offer. Living off the land is in fact collaboration whole within itself, the natural environment we depend on for our existence. One realises in this thought that every single thing, from a dragonfly’s wing, to a breath of hot air, that every single particle of energy in the universe is dependent and essential for another to exist. Moreover, all these energies are connected in a way that they influence each other worlds, universes apart. It could appear ridiculous in a sense, but things often worth doing seem this way at first.

Words and Pictures by Lucinda Rose, 2013.