20.2.1  Advantages and disadvantages of pit latrines

In general, pit latrines with a slab are effective sanitation systems because they isolate human excreta from the surrounding environment and prevent the transmission of faeco-orally transmitted diseases. They also have other advantages:

  • They do not require water so are appropriate in areas where there is no adequate water supply.
  • Squatting is normal to many people and thus is acceptable to users.
  • Alternating double pits will allow the excreta to drain, degrade and transform into a nutrient-rich, safe humic material that can be used to improve soils.
  • They avoid contamination of surface water and top soil if properly installed and maintained.
  • They can be constructed with minimum cost using local material and local skills.
  • The presence of properly constructed slabs will allow easy cleaning and avoid flies and unsightliness.

However, pit latrines are not without limitations. There may be a foul odour from the pit and they can be a favourable place for the breeding of flies and mosquitoes. With single pits, a new pit needs to be dug every time one gets full. They can be susceptible to failure/overflowing during floods. Other disadvantages can be overcome by proper design, construction and usage. For example, if the superstructure is not properly constructed, it may discourage use of the latrine by family members. Children may be discouraged from using the latrine if the slab is not designed with them in mind and is too big for them. Use of excess water or less compostable materials for anal cleansing should be avoided because it may affect the decomposition rate of human excreta.

20.2  Pit latrine with slab

20.2.2  Siting, designing and constructing a pit latrine