Friday 19 November 2010

HSW in PLoS Medicine

Last week and earlier this week PLoS Medicine published a collection of four papers on hygiene, sanitation, and water (HSW) in developing countries. They are:

1. Hygiene, Sanitation, and Water: Forgotten Foundations of Health
2. Water Supply and Health
3. Sanitation and Health
4. Hygiene, Sanitation, and Water: What Needs to Be Done?

You can access and download them here. Check out other PLoS Medicine Collections here.

[PLoS - Public Library of Science, an organization that publishes "open access" papers in a variety of e-journals.]

World Toilet Day

Today is World Toilet Day. Check out the website here and look at the posters here – this is one of them:

Thursday 4 November 2010

Fallacious arguments

In Sandec News No. 11 (published in August) there’s an article (pages 14−15) by Mbaye Mbéguéré, Pierre-Henri Dodane, Ousmane Sow and Doulaye Koné on “Financial Assessment of Dakar’s Sewer vs Faecal Sludge Management”. Here’s the intro. blurb:

In Senegal’s capital Dakar, with its approx. three million inhabitants, investment and O&M costs of the conventional, centralised sewer system are considerably higher than those of the on-site faecal sludge management (FSM) system. The income generated by user fees is insufficient to cover the expenses of the centralised sewer system, yet recovery of FSM charges appears easier.

The implication seems to be that, because FSM is cheaper than conventional sewerage, it’s a good thing to do. This is the “EcoSan fallacy” (see blog of 30 November 2008): if it (whatever "it" may be) is cheaper than conventional sewerage, then you should use it. The nonsense of this way of “thinking” is rapidly understood when you remember that everything’s cheaper than conventional sewerage, as John Kalbermatten found in the 1970s (see here) and as more recently determined in South Africa (here). What’s needed is a comparison between “it” (even “them”) and simplified sewerage.

All rather tiresome!

Graduate education

There’s a brilliant paper by Professor John Briscoe (of Harvard University) in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management [American Society of Civil Engineers, 2010: 136 (4), 409−411]: Practice and Teaching of American Water Management in a Changing World. He makes the point that decades ago students came from all over the world to American universities to be well trained at Masters level in water resources and sanitary engineering. Briscoe notes that, while the world has changed (and still is changing), the courses haven’t (at least not sufficiently) and therefore the US is losing its place in the world of graduate education: what happens now in the US simply isn’t relevant any more to the needs of middle- and low-income countries; similarly what’s needed in most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is not wholly relevant to the needs of most countries in Latin America.

I suspect this sorry state of educational affairs also occurs in most other industrialized countries – in the UK, for example, you can easily count on the fingers of one hand the universities who offer appropriate graduate training in environmental health engineering for warm-climate countries (you might need both hands if you wanted to include western Europe).

►See also Declining by degree in The Economist of 4 September.