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Planning a pit latrine

Compiled by Richard Franceys and Isabel Carter. When the decision to build a pit latrine is made, then there are many things to consider…

1991 Available in English, French and Spanish

Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Sanitation – Footsteps 9

Ideas for working with communities to improve hygiene, sanitation and health

Compiled by Richard Franceys and Isabel Carter.

When the decision to build a pit latrine is made, then there are many things to consider…

The type of latrine

This depends on how much money is available and whether people use water or solid materials for cleaning themselves…

  • a water-seal latrine (where people use water)
  • a simple pit latrine with a sealed cover
  • a ventilated latrine with a pipe to take away the smell and keep out flies.

Where to build it

A well built latrine can be built next to the house. You may prefer to choose a site a little further away from the house. But it is very important that the latrine must be at least 15 metres downhill from any water source.

How to contruct it

  • Hard, firm soil – no lining is likely to be needed.
  • Rocky ground – you may need to build a mound up around the pit with steps leading up to the latrine. 
  • Soft, loose soil – you will need to line the pit to prevent the sides from falling in. The lining can be just for the upper half of the latrine or, if necessary, all the way down the pit. You can use all kinds of different materials to line the pit: bricks, blocks, oil drum, concrete rings, bamboo or similar basketwork, stones.

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