EFEChhnok Tru, Cambodia

Evening sets in the lacustrine village of Chhnok Tru, in Tonle Sap lake, and children return home from schools, where floating toilets do not pollute the water, used by the community for cooking and washing.

Located in central Cambodia, Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia's largest fresh water reserve and home to around 100,000 people, whose only firm ground are the constructions under their feet and whose means of livelihood are the fish in the lake.

However, the lack of toilets and proper sanitation system makes these waters also the source of all types of diseases, which affects children the most and impoverish these precarious communities even further.

In response to this problem, the company Wetlands Work (WW) proposes to sell to these villages around three thousand floating toilets that process the excreta and reduce the number of pathogens to an extent that it becomes nearly safe enough to bathe in.

"The waste goes from the toilet bowl to a floating storage tank, where micro-organisms decompose it and eliminate most of the smell," says WW engineer Irina Chakraborty.

"Then, it passes through a small pool with floating plants (native) where the biological processes purify the water before it is released outside," she adds.

Each toilet costs $94, a considerable sum for families who are among the poorest in the country but, according to Chakraborty, it is less than their yearly medical expenses.

"If the mother has three children and everyone has to commute (to receive medical attention), they end up spending hundreds of dollars on each visit, and if it is dysentery or something more serious, it costs a lot more," says the engineer.

"The houses that remain without access to toilets tend to be the most marginalized ones," says Michel Dauguet, director of the sanitation program of the non-profit IDE, stressing on the need financial assistance to these families in the form of micro-credit or subsidies.

According to the Ministry of Rural Development, around half the houses in the country has toilets, however they are most scarce among the floating communities of the lake.

Tonle Sap also accounts for the most recurring cases of diarrhea as well as skin and respiratory infections, diseases that are responsible for 25 percent of deaths among children less than five years of age, according to World Health Organization data for 2013.

Som Lun, head of the student committee in one of the 10 schools where WW has donated toilets, has been living on the lake for 35 years and has two daughters who live outside the community and work in textile factories, where the minimum salary is $128 per month.

"I don't know if the health of children will improve with the toilets," Som Lun admits.

Chooeung Kimyeak, a 60-year-old who holds a municipal post in Chhnok Tru, has been using a floating toilet since the past two months but claims he has "not noted his family members suffering less from diarrhea and vomiting."

"One of the problems is that people do not respond very well to the sanitary argument, because they do not establish a connection between defecating (in the water) and falling ill," says Chakraborty.

It is for this reason the social enterprise has targeted schools in the floating villages in Kampong Chhnang and Battambang provinces to educate the communities, and reach the parents by educating their children.

Since water is a shared resource, the effort for better sanitation has to come from the entire community; hence the enterprise hopes education will help create social pressure in the villages.

"With respect to health, the water quality will have to be significantly better; for that, perhaps 80 or 90 percent of the houses will need to have toilets," says WW founder Taber hand.