Monday, 2 March 2009

John Kalbermatten, 1931−2009

Low-cost Sanitation has lost its greatest Champion: John Kalbermatten, who died last Thursday in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and who is being buried today. In the 1970s and early 80s John was the Senior Water & Wastes Advisor at the World Bank. He realised that the Bank’s investments in sewerage were not reaching the poor and he persuaded the Bank to fund the 1976−78 low-cost sanitation research project. This produced some truly ground-breaking publications − for example, the three books on Appropriate Sanitation Alternatives: A Technical and Economic Appraisal and A Planning and Design Manual (published in 1982 by Johns Hopkins University Press), and Sanitation and Disease: Health Aspects of Excreta and Wastewater Management (John Wiley & Sons, 1983) − some people, including some sector 'specialists', are even now "reinventing" quite a bit of what's in the first two, simply because they haven't read them (and probably don't know about them).

John then obtained funds from UNDP in 1978 for project GLO/78/006 for the Technology Advisory Group (TAG), which he established, to start putting the lessons of the research project into practice. TAG’s successor today is the Water and Sanitation Program. Maggie Black’s 1999 publication 1978−1998: Learning What Works − A 20 Year Retrospective View on International Water and Sanitation Cooperation details the work of TAG.

John was a true visionary and I, for one, will miss him greatly. Requiescat in pace.