Friday, 24 September 2010

Winston Churchill, Ancient Sewers, and the Future

I’ve come across this quote from Winston Churchill:

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.

How far back can we go with sanitation? Well, there were sewers some 5000 years ago in the city of Moenjodaro (now a World Heritage Site) in present-day Sindh province, Pakistan – see Moenjodaro: A 5,000-year-old Legacy by Khurshid Hasan Shaikh and Syed M. Ashfaque (published by UNESCO, 1981), and Water supply and sewage disposal at Mohenjo-Daro by M. Jansen (World Archaeology 1989, 21 (2), 177−192).

So how much farther forward are we likely to see? Well, clearly not 5000 years, maybe 50 years at best. What are we likely to see? A highly urbanized world, for sure, probably a highly ‘periurbanized’ world. With what sanitation? Well, hopefully by then the world will have come to its senses and simplified sewerage with be the urban/periurban norm. Sewers in the past, simplified sewers in the future. But we shouldn’t wait for the future: we need to start installing simplified sewerage on a very large scale now. When are we going to realise this?