Thursday, 17 January 2008

Periurban sanitation planning

What’s the role of “the community” in periurban sanitation planning? What does “community participation” mean in periurban sanitation practice? But first let’s suppose, just suppose, that conventional sewerage were affordable in poor periurban areas. What would happen then? Well, for a start, there would be little or no discussion – the local water and sewerage agency would simply install conventional sewerage. (This is more or less what was done in the UK, Europe and the USA during 1850−1950.) But to ensure a good rate of connection and proper operation, it would interact with the beneficiary communities to inform them what was going to happen, how they should operate the system (no garbage disposal!), what to do when problems occurred, how much the monthly water bill would increase, and offer low-cost loans (to be repaid through the monthly water bill) to install household toilets – and, of course, no connection fees as these are really anti-poor. Does simplified sewerage, generally the first choice for periurban sanitation, need to be any different? My answer to this question is ‘No’. Of course, the situation is different in rural areas, so more complex forms of community participation are usually necessary (and there are plenty to choose from), but in periurban areas, where high population densities in the absence of adequate sanitation soon lead to a high level of faecal disorder, disease and death, people (especially women and girls) really want affordable sanitation − they know that, as the South Africans say, Water may be Life but Sanitation is Dignity. For those of you who really want more then Section 3 of Effective Strategic Planning for Urban Sanitation Services: Fundamentals of Good Practice (GHK Training & Research, 2002) gives an excellent introduction to the topic.