Monday, 13 April 2009

Sanitation choices in the real world

The other night I met up with Rose George, the perspicacious author of The Big Necessity who’s recently moved to Leeds, for a quick drink. Naturally enough we talked about sanitation and she asked at one point what I’d recommend and why. This set me thinking and I have to say that, if we are to have any chance of attaining universal sanitation provision in the relatively near future (and remember it has to be ‘adequate’, not just ‘improved’, sanitation), then we need to be pretty clear about the sanitation systems we can actually use. So I reckon it has to be something like this:

A. High-density urban areas: simplified/condominial sewerage, low-cost combined sewerage, or SPARC-style community-managed sanitation blocks.

B. Medium-density urban and rural areas: eThekwini latrines (properly called ‘urine-diverting alternating twin-vault ventilated improved vault latrines’ or ‘UD-VIVs’ for short), simplified/condominial sewerage or low-cost combined sewerage, though alternating twin-pit VIPs and PF toilets could also be used if they can be desludged easily.

C. Low-density rural areas: Arborloos (‘excreta in, money out’) or ‘fossas alternas’, though long-life single-pit VIPs and pour-flush toilets could also be used.

No EcoSan until it’s a financially viable option! (You can argue that Arborloos and fossas alternas are EcoSan systems, but they’re the only affordable EcoSan options at the moment.)

And don’t even think any more about trying to meet the MDG sanitation target − we haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of meeting it, so it’s better to face facts and forget about it, and have instead the more equitable goal of universal provision of adequate sanitation by − well, who knows when? But if you need a date, then 31 December 2025, as recommended in the Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment 2000 Report.