In the Maldives traditionally people used beach (athirimathi) for defecation. They also use “gefili” a designated area in the backyard of the house for shallow burial of feces. Defecation using beach and “gefili” has been widely practiced not only in Fuvahmulah. It is common everywhere in the Maldives and the rest of the world. According to WHO, 15 percent of world population defecate on open places. We are among them.
The initial phase of defecating starts at wee hours. Fishermen wake up at small hours and walk towards the anchorage areas. Once they reach the beach, some of them are not prepared to set off for the journey as they have to empty their bowels. So they just defecate on the beach. Anyone whose bowels are alarmed will immediately empty their bowels. Then they set off for fishing.
Our own “technology”
Fuvahmulah is a populous island. People use the beach and beeva, thick vegetation near the beach areas for defecation as there is no sanitation system. In early days, few houses had “own” sewerage system or pour-flush toilet, where a drainage pipe is connected to the bowl or pour-flush toilet that collects the feces. The other end of the pipes are connected to pits located in the backyard.
These local systems-though it has serious health implications- were first introduced by wealthy and affordable individuals. As the humble people can’t beg the nobles to use their toilets, they go to beeva or beach. The alarmed person also runs towards the beeva or the beach to empty the bowel.
“Goo dhngando” – the helpful iron bar
For our own way or system, tools are not necessary. But an iron bar is a used widely for defecation. The iron bar or vado edaa dhangando or goo dhagando is used to dig a small pit in the backyard or gefili and empty their bowel into the pits. But for open areas, such as beeva or beach, we don’t use this tool. The tool, measuring around 4 ft in lenght, is not provided by the government; it is invented and made by us.
Goo funi- heaps of excreta
Quite often our feet is dipped into “goofuni,” heap of excreta on the beach, while we walk along the beach. Some youngsters face this irritating encounter at night while they chase chicken in the bushest. A decade ago chicken were numerous in Fuvahmulah. So after croaking at dawn, they land on earth and search for “food” that is prepared all around the island.
We risk our health; who cares?
Although all the households have the pour flush system, we are prone to the disastrous health implications of this. We may not feel it, but our body is subjected to this danger. Some diseases we have encountered could be the result of this system.
What is the difference between using the beeva as toilets and the current “toilet system.?” I don’t think there is any difference. We drain the excreta into the ground in our households. Then the flows to the bathing well of the same household and the other fresh water wells in the neighboring areas. So these pour flush systems pollute our fresh water wells in the whole island though we don’t feel it.
Water not only moves in rivers and oceans. Groundwater is not “held” in one place underground–it flows through the aquifer. Groundwater is transported through aquifers because of two main reasons: gravity and pressure.
Ground water flows from one point to the other due to the combined forces of gravity and pressure. It can flow up, down, or sideways.
Read about Groundwater Basics
A healthy living environment depends on adequate sanitation. Without sanitation systems, human waste enters groundwater and surface waters. Feces deposited during open defecation contaminate the land. We have been practicing our own system though we have been the victims of feces.
We are waiting for the magic lamp
People dream of a good sanitation system. But such developments only come with “spells” of political campaigns. Numerous dates have been given by governments and the current government as well. According to some people, to provide sanitation for Fuvahmulah, some financial arrangements were set even during the era of Maumoon.
Seven years ago, a Minister was attacked in Kulhudhufushi, accusing the government for misleading the islanders of the sanitation project and. After the assault the island was gifted with a sanitation system. But that is not the right way to express dissatisfaction. What I feel is, although these contaminated water enters the body of our children and infants, for the time being the current pour-flush system and even the beeva and beach is good- till Aladin comes with the magic lamp. And till then we can listen to promises, watch the various tests, experiments and surveys being conducted for perhaps several months or years.
May be, all the influential and respected figures who have served and are serving the government, including MPs are defecating on the beach and beeva and, some of them are still using pour-flush system, so they don’t dream of sanitation and sewerage system for the island. But some people say that they are obsessed in a world of materialism lives as slaves of Pharaohs. The existing “technology” is too good for all of us as the “system of defecation” does not bear any financial burden. The only tool, the goo dhagando, can also be collected from the heaps of garbage in and around the island.
Read about Water and Health