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Floating toilets could cut the enormous levels of waterborne sickness in Cambodia's river communities.

These communities largely live on floating platforms that often do not have proper latrines — occupants use the river instead, and use that same water for drinking, cooking and washing. Singaporean-based non-governmental organisation Lien Aid is developing toilets built on floating platforms that can be attached to homes, preventing faeces from polluting rivers.

The toilet has a diversion pan that separates urine from faeces — and materials such as dry ash can help reduce the odour. The faeces are then decomposed and bacteria destroyed in a secondary storage chamber. The urine can be used as fertiliser.

But introducing such toilets in Cambodia is not without its problems. A lack of qualified engineers, along with poor sanitation infrastructure, means that financial sustainability is still a long way off.

Low hygiene awareness is also a problem. "It's not a poverty issue," says Chea Samnang, director of rural healthcare for the Ministry of Rural Development. "It's an issue of access to the right information." Rural Cambodians tend to view latrines as "filthy" and prefer open defecation.

Lien Aid are testing prototypes and are hoping costs can be kept down using locally-manufactured materials.

Three quarters of all deaths in Cambodia are caused by waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, according to Resource Development International Cambodia.

Link to full article in IRIN