Muzi Sithole, with a bucket, rake, spade, cup and rubber gloves given to him by the eThekwini Municipality this week. He must use the tools to remove human waste from the new toilet system.

Durban - The use of urine diversion toilets, which have angered residents in rural parts of the eThekwini municipality, has been defended by a leading academic who says he has one in his own Manor Gardens home and the toilet does not work like the “bucket system”.

According to The Mercury’s sister paper The Sunday Tribune, more than 80 000 of the toilets have been built in rural parts of the eThekwini municipality and some Inanda residents claimed that the toilets were undignified and a throwback to the bucket system of the apartheid era.

The system is still in use in some parts of the country.

But University of KwaZulu-Natal Professor Chris Buckley, who heads the institution’s pollution research group, said the toilets only had to be emptied after a year.

Buckley said it was called a urine diversion toilet because the urine went into a separate chamber and then to an underground soak-away pit. It also had two vaults for solid waste and the first vault was used for about a year until it was filled.

“The waste material, which would have spent a year dehydrating, would be dry and decreased significantly in mass. It would then have to be removed using the tools provided such as the rake and bucket and buried in a hole.”

Buckley, who installed one of the toilets at his home for research purposes, said his one was working well.

“It is not odourless, but it does not smell bad. I have buried the waste in my backyard and the lemon tree I planted on top of it is flourishing.”

He said the toilets were a marked improvement from pit latrines and open defecation.

DA caucus leader Tex Collins said: “The toilets work in an entirely different way. People are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. But ideally people want flushing toilets, so these toilets are going to have a low acceptance rate because people do not like them.” There were very few alternatives because of the huge housing backlogs in the city.

“There is a backlog of 400 000 homes and if you consider that water and electricity and sanitation has to be provided for all these houses, it is almost an impossible task.”

Minority Front exco member Patrick Pillay said: “People will become disillusioned and feel they have been forgotten if they are subjected to using these toilets. Providing proper sanitation has to be prioritised and budgeted for.”

The city’s head of water and sanitation reportedly told the Sunday Tribune that the municipality had a constitutional obligation to provide basic sanitation, but no one was forced to use the toilets.

The Mercury