Saturday, 2 August 2008

What is “Sustainable Sanitation”? − 2

When writing today’s earlier blog I forgot to consult the website of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance − SuSanA (unforgiveable, of course). It has a page titled What is sustainable sanitation? which has this to say:

“The main objective of a sanitation system is to protect and promote human health by providing a clean environment and breaking the cycle of disease. In order to be sustainable, a sanitation system has to be not only economically viable, socially acceptable, and technically and institutionally appropriate, it should also protect the environment and the natural resources.”

It then describes the sustainability criteria related to health and hygiene, environment and natural resources, technology and operation, financial and economic issues, and socio-cultural and institutional aspects that should be considered when improving an existing and/or designing a new sanitation system. Very comprehensive! It goes on to say:

“The concept of sustainability is more of a direction rather than a stage to reach. Nevertheless, it is crucial, that sanitation systems are evaluated carefully with regard to all dimensions of sustainability. Since there is no one-for-all sanitation solution which fulfils the sustainability criteria in different circumstances to the same extent, this system evaluation will depend on the local framework and has to take into consideration existing environmental, technical, socio-cultural and economic conditions. Taking into consideration the entire range of sustainability criteria, it is important to observe some basic principles when planning and implementing a sanitation system. These were already developed some years ago by a group of experts and were endorsed by the members of the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council as the “Bellagio Principles for Sustainable Sanitation” during its 5th Global Forum in November 2000.”

The Bellagio Statement doesn’t actually mention the words ‘sustainability’ or ‘sustainable’, although it does use ‘unsustainable’ (see Summary Report of Bellagio Expert Consultation on Environmental Sanitation in the 21st Century 1−4 February 2000 and Bellagio Statement: Clean, Healthy and Productive Living: A New Approach to Environmental Sanitation). The 2005 WSSCC/Eawag-Sandec report Household-Centred Environmental Sanitation: Implementing the Bellagio Principles in Urban Environmental Sanitation − Provisional Guideline for Decision-Makers uses ‘sustainable’ 26 times and ‘sustainability’ 6 times, but no definitions are given. In his 2005 paper From conventional to advanced environmental sanitation (Water Science and Technology 51 (10), 7−14) Roland Schertenleib, the ‘architect’ of Household-centred Environmental Sanitation, uses “advanced” to mean “sustainable” [he writes: “advanced (sustainable) environmental sanitation systems”].

For the moment I'm standing by the definition I gave earlier today!