Environmental Management

, Volume 64, Issue 4, pp 456–469 | Cite as

Purity, Pollution, and Space: Barriers to Latrine Adoption in Post-disaster India

  • Luke JuranEmail author
  • Ellis A. Adams
  • Shaifali Prajapati


This study examines the adoption of latrines provided as part of reconstruction efforts after the 2004 tsunami in India. Primary data from 274 households encompassing 1154 individuals were collected from 14 villages. GLM and GLMM tests indicate that sex (more females adopted than males) is a statistically significant factor in latrine adoption (p = 0.046 and p = 0.005, respectively), while income, education, and male age cohorts were significant only in the GLM model. Regression analyses show that six social and demographic variables are somewhat predictive of latrine usage (R2 = 0.123). Thus, while quantitative methods provided a contextual summation, qualitative methods ultimately explained why individuals chose to adopt or abandon the latrines. Interviews (n = 76) and focus group discussions (n = 14) revealed that latrine adoption is influenced by cultural conceptualizations of purity, pollution, and space. For example, conceptualizations of purity and pollution led some households to deem latrines as profane and thus a barrier to the entry of gods, while spatial constraints forced others to convert latrine space to other beneficial uses (e.g., puja room and storage area). Finally, the cost of pumping septic tanks and shared infrastructure arose as barriers to latrine adoption. These barriers underscore the importance of economics as well as community demand, capacity, and cohesion in latrine adoption.


Sanitation Infrastructure provision Built environment Technological adoption Behavior change Semiotics 



Thanks for support from Sanam Aksha and the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (LISA) at Virginia Tech.


Sustainable Water Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the Virginia Water Resources Research Center (VWRRC), and a New Investigator Award from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and the Virginia Water Resources Research CenterVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Global Studies Institute and Department of GeosciencesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Virginia Water Resources Research CenterVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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