Press Releases

Twitter iconYouTube iconFacebook iconSoundCloudiTunes badge

Call us: +44 (0)20 7679 9041


The UCL Media Relations team is the university’s central press office.


We connect journalists to expert academics and promote UCL research and teaching throughout the global media.


More contact information



Public Inconvenience: The Politics of Toilets in India

Publication date: Mar 7, 2008 10:49:28 AM

The second UCL Institute for Global Health (IGH) symposium will take place next week, when academics across a range of disciplines will come together to discuss an issue affecting billions of people across the developing world – toilets.

Event: ‘‘Public Inconvenience: The Politics of Toilets in India’

Date: Tuesday 11 March 2008, 4.30pm to 6pm

Location: Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL Wilkins Building

The event will explore the political issues surrounding toilets, specifically in Mumbai and Pune, India – and the wider implications for global health, community development and the built environment.

At the seminar, Sundar Burra from the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC), an Indian community organisation, will discuss the politics of toilets in India, the communities that are motivated to develop responses and the implications for the work of researchers working at UCL and beyond.

Between 20 to 50 per cent of the population of a number of cities in developing countries have inadequate access to basic housing, water and sanitation. The ability of the urban poor to participate in making decisions about city development and management – including the establishment of toilet facilities – is determined by a combination of factors; from having the collective strength to push for demands that will be taken seriously, to supporting poor communities to believe that they have the capacity to help solve their own problems.

Professor Caren Levy, UCL Development Planning Unit, said: “How communities are able to organise and make decisions about the design, construction and maintenance of appropriate toilet facilities – and to build community health and social responses around them – is a fundamental issue facing parts of the developing world.

“It also has relevance across a whole range of academic subjects: anthropology, sociology, political science, engineering, law and biomedicine. When you want to successfully implement programmes at scale, such as this one, you need people from a range of disciplines to contribute to the process. As a leading multi-faculty university, UCL is in a strong position to draw together our expertise to address pressing global health issues such as this one.”

Panel members contributing to the debate will be:

* Professor Anthony Costello (UCL Centre for International Health & Development and UCL IGH)

* Dr David Satterthwaite (UCL Developing Planning Unit and International Institute for Environment & Development)

* Dr David Osrin (UCL Institute of Child Health)

* Mekhala Krishnamurthy (UCL Anthropology)

* Professor Matthew Gandy (UCL Urban Laboratory)

The global-health symposia series aims to encourage the UCL community and beyond to learn more about, and get involved in, the new UCL IGH. Its underlying philosophy is that the solutions to achieving sustained long-term health improvement reside equally in all UCL disciplines, from the arts and humanities, built environment, engineering and law, to basic and applied biomedical sciences.

The subsequent Spring 2008 symposia will be

* 15 April 2008 – ‘HIV/AIDS: Where next without a magic bullet?’

* 13 May 2008 – ‘Global Health Governance – Who is accountable to whom?

Notes for Editors

1. Journalists who wish to attend the symposium, or interview the UCL academics involved, should contact Jenny Gimpel in the UCL Media Relations Office on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9726, mobile: +44 (0)7747 565 056, out of hours +44 (0)7917 271 364, e-mail: j.gimpel@ucl.ac.uk

2. The lecture will be held on Tuesday 11 March 2008, 4.30–6pm, in the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL Wilkins Building. This is located off the main UCL quad. A map is available here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/about-ucl/location/maps/maps_2007.pdf