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[PHNOM PENH] A toilet kit and a self-cleaning water filter are among the innovations shortlisted for a major award that recognises the importance of design in improving lives.

The Easy Latrine and Tulip Siphon Water Filter, both being rolled out in Cambodia, have reached the final round of the Denmark-based INDEX awards which have a top prize of €500,000 (US$711,000), and will be awarded later today.

The US$35 Easy Latrine is an affordable, all-in-one toilet kit aimed at the rural poor in Cambodia, where open defecation is common and 82 per cent of households do not have a toilet.

"Purchasing a latrine was prohibitively difficult for rural customers who source materials from various shops, organize transport, hire skilled labour to construct and install the latrine — they often pay more than US$100," said Yi Wei, water and sanitation advisor of International Development Enterprises (IDE), a non-profit organisation which commissioned the latrine together with the Cambodian Ministry of Rural Development and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Easy Latrine can be assembled by villagers. It is locally produced from cheap materials such as concrete and rice husks.

The latrine project has established around 30 sustainable enterprises, most of which received training from IDE, and more than 11,500 latrines have been purchased from them over the past year, Wei said.

Another shortlisted design, the Tulip water filter, consists of a ceramic filter, a tube and a tap. Klaas van der Ven, owner of the manufacturing company Basic Water Needs India, which designed the filter, said that more than 170,000 have been sold and that there has been an explosive growth in demand.

"What's special about the water filter is its cleaning system, the fast flow of five litres per hour, and the small weight and volume."

The filters contain silver particles, which reduce the recontamination risk of stored filtered water, he said.

"The small size makes it easy for small hardware and general stores to keep it in stock, and to distribute it on a large scale for emergency situations," Klaas said.

Huy Dara, president of Ideas at Work — a social enterprise with offices in Cambodia and the Netherlands that is distributing the filter — said it costs US$16, and has been popular with the rural poor because it is easy to clean and very portable.

The filter is also being rolled out in other countries including India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Adam von Haffner Paulsen, news director at INDEX, said: "Design has a great role to play in science and technology innovation". He added that designers and scientists should work together from the start of the invention process to ensure the user-friendliness of technologies that can improve people's lives.

See below for an INDEX video about Tulip Siphon Water Filter:

Tulip Siphon Water Filter from INDEX: Design to Improve Life on Vimeo.


See below for an INDEX video about Easy Latrine:

Easy Latrine from INDEX: Design to Improve Life on Vimeo.