Saturday, 27 June 2009

Manual scavenging − again

Manual scavenging’s in the news again: the Indian Supreme Court is on the case − according to a report in Source Weekly (IRC’s excellent e-newsletter), it “has asked the Delhi government to explain its failure to implement a central law against manual scavenging that provides for elimination of dry latrines and rehabilitation of scavengers. Earlier, the court had also sent to district magistrates the details of over 2,000 dry latrine owners in over 25 districts in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan seeking their explanation for their failure in demolishing the latrines and prosecuting the owners. The notices were sent after the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) (Sanitary Workers’ Movement) provided evidence that the practice of manual scavenging still existed, 16 years after the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act was passed by the Union Government in 1993.” Let’s hope the Supreme Court does the decent thing and get this dreadful practice banned for good (see blogs of 7 August 2008, 17 April 2008 and 18 January 2008)

India has around ~668,000 “open defecators” (58% of the Indian population, and 56% of the world total of open defecators). There's a Total Sanitation Campaign (basically the same as CLTS), but word has it that it’s not going that well. Now, India is by far the largest recipient of WatSan aid − USD 830 million (2006 USD) in 2006−07, equivalent to 13% of all WatSan aid, according to the OECD report Measuring Aid to Water Supply and Sanitation (published in February this year). So wouldn’t it be a good idea for all these donors to get together and say “Look here, sort out manual scavenging once and for all, and make sure your Total Sanitation Campaign really delivers”. But have the donors got the bottle to say this? It needs to be said loudly and clearly (and India should take on board the old adage: “your greatest critics are your greatest friends”).

Rotavirus vaccine

WHO issued a News Release on 5 June: “Global use of rotavirus vaccines recommended: Vaccines can protect millions of children from diarrhoeal disease”. The News Release says: “WHO has recommended that rotavirus vaccination be included in all national immunization programmes to provide protection against a virus that is responsible for more than 500,000 diarrhoeal deaths and 2 million hospitalizations every year among children. More than 85% of these deaths occur in developing countries in Africa and Asia. This new policy will help ensure access to rotavirus vaccines in the world’s poorest countries.” [The formal recommendation is in the 5 June issue of Weekly Epidemiological Record − see pdf page 20.] All very well and very good, BUT (it’s a big but) what if, say, norovirus takes over from rotavirus? Norovirus already kills ~200,000 children under 5 in developing countries every year (details here) (see also CDC’s Norovirus: Technical Fact Sheet webpage for details of the virus and its effects). A norovirus vaccine? Well, one’s under development in the US (funded by the military) (details here), but it’ll be years before it’s ready for a WHO recommendation like the one for rotavirus. How many kids in developing countries will die from norovirus disease before it’s ready?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Ocean dumping ...

I came across these slides I took in 1977:

A beautiful beach just outside Accra.

The surf zone turned this colour after one of the regular discharges of untreated nightsoil!

Has anything improved since then? No − these photos were taken in October last year:

Septic tanks are emptied by small-scale operatives (proud of their work − and rightly so),

but the tankers still discharge to the ocean.

Will it ever end? It just might when the British-funded UASB treatment plant becomes operational again (one of its pumps broke down soon after commissioning and it's been put of action ever since). AfDB is proposing to fund the rehabilitation of the plant − with a stock of spare pumps! [You'd have thought, wouldn't you, that ODA or now DFID would have sorted this out years ago. Ain't bureaucrats strange?]

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Urban EcoSan in Erdos

Word is out, but not yet in print or e-print, that the much acclaimed Erdos Eco-Town project in China (see blog of 18 April 2008), supported by SIDA, the Stockholm Environment Institute and its EcoSanRes project, has been closed down by the Chinese as it was just too complicated and the householders, especially the women, didn’t like it at all. No surprise here then – after all, there’s water and sawdust going into each house, and dehydrated faeces, urine and greywater all coming out in separate streams. See the EcoSan photos on Flickr if you need convincing.

“Much acclaimed”? Well, it has been – see:
Sweden-China Erdos Eco-Town Project (EcoSanRes Factsheet #11, 2008)
Introduction to the China-Sweden Erdos Eco-Town Project (GTZ, 2006)

I think the world, especially the EcoSan world, deserves a full explanation, so over to you guys at SEI (and we’d like to know the costs please).