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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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

Funding

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).

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Correspondence to Luke Juran.

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Juran, L., Adams, E.A. & Prajapati, S. Purity, Pollution, and Space: Barriers to Latrine Adoption in Post-disaster India. Environmental Management 64, 456–469 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-019-01202-6

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Keywords

  • Sanitation
  • Infrastructure provision
  • Built environment
  • Technological adoption
  • Behavior change
  • Semiotics