Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a non-profit voluntary social organisation was founded in 1970 by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak. It is dedicated to the Gandhian ideology of the emancipation of scavengers. Sulabh International has been working for the removal of untouchability and social discrimination against human scavengers, a section of Indian society condemned to clean and carry human excreta manually. The “untouchables”, mostly women were responsible for the carrying of waste in bamboo baskets that often leaked and trickled all over the person. Dr Pathak has worked tirelessly to initiate a mixed strategy of technology, rehabilitation and social reform to restore dignity to this population in India. His strategy has five distinct stages:

    - Liberation

    - Rehabilitation

    - Vocational training

    - Proper education of the next generation

    - Social elevation

The organisation is noted for achieving success in the field of cost-effective sanitation, liberation of scavengers, social transformation of society, prevention of environmental pollution and development of non-conventional sources of energy.

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Dr Pathak is a pioneering humanist. In the words of Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, “He is the son of Gandhi’s soul. This is due to his noble work. He has restored human rights and dignity to people”. He has a Masters in Sociology and a Masters in English. His PhD was obtained on “Liberation of scavengers through Low-Cost Sanitation” from Patna University. He also obtained a PhD on “Eradication of Scavenging and Environmental Sanitation in India a Sociological Study from Patna University. He is an icon of sanitation and reform who has made a difference in the lives of millions of people.

He started his journey defying the stigma of association with the “untouchables” and undertook to live with them in their Colony in Bettiah to understand their plight, build a rapport and find a solution. He is the inventor of the ecological two pit compost flush toilet, a twin pit technology whereby the excreta is digested, becomes dry and is pathogen free in two years for safe handling as manure. He founded Sulabh International on the principles that Government and NGOs must work together to solve the problems of manual scavenging and defecation in the open.

The United Nation’s Centre for Human Settlements has cited his solutions as a Global best practice In November 2015 Dr Pathak joined the roll of honour for the World’s Top 50 diversity figures in public life (others to receive this award were President Barak Obama, Angelina Jolie and Bill Gates). Dr Pathak is internationally acclaimed and an expert on sanitation. He is also known for his contributions in the areas of bio-energy and biofertilizer.

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In the developed countries, the standard practice for the sanitary disposal of human waste is sewerage. Due to financial constraints and exorbitant maintenance and operational costs, sewerage is not the answer at present to solve the problem of human waste management in India. Out of over 7,933 towns/cities in India, only 929 have a sewerage system and that too partially. There are only 160 towns that have sewerage treatment plants but there is no such facility in the remaining 769 towns.

In developing countries, neither the government nor the local authorities, or the beneficiaries can bear the total capital expenditure, operation and maintenance costs of a sewerage system. Moreover, it requires skilled persons and good management for operations and maintenance. It requires over 2 gallons of water to clean human excreta. Do we build huge dams and irrigation systems to bring in water, only to flush it down into an expensive sewage system, all ending up polluting our rivers and ponds? Most of the rivers are heavily polluted due to the untreated domestic sewage load from the cities. This has led to the deterioration of groundwater aquifers and community health.

The septic tank system is also expensive and requires 12-14 litres of water for flushing. There is a shortage of drinking water in almost all urban areas; hence water has to be conserved. Septic tanks have other problems like periodic cleaning and disposal of sludge. Inadequate effluent disposal is a source of foul smells, mosquito breeding and health hazards.

Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation was founded in 1970 by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak in India. In 2015, Sulabh International Centre for Action Sociology – South Africa was founded by Sulabh International, to share Sulabh best practices and technologies and to bring sanitation solutions to South Africa. Sulabh is dedicated to the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi to restore basic human rights and dignity to people. We do this through the provision of clean, safe and environmentally friendly sanitation solutions.

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