It’s not (just) about the toilets

When people hear the statistic that 2.6Bn, or nearly 40% of the world population, lack access to proper sanitation, the typical reaction is to propose building more latrines. But it’s not (just) about the toilets. Here at Sanergy, we have maintained that reliable sanitation services must include provisions for the 3Ts: toilets, transportation, and treatment of the waste. But most importantly all three of these critical portions of the sanitation infrastructure need to be tied into a viable business environment. Private sector organizations with the necessary skills to invest and manage this infrastructure can provide these sanitation services with no subsidies and no aid.

We are glad to see others join our call to create an integrated approach to sanitation services delivery. Sandec, the Department for Water and Sanitation at Eawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) published an article in this month’s Water Policy titled ‘Making urban excreta and wastewater management contribute to cities’ economic development: a paradigm shift’. To paraphrase from the article, the author describes how  development programmes fail to link infrastructure provision and its necessary management requirements. Even when infrastructure is available, there is an absence of a market or coordinating mechanism for use of resources such as water, nutrients or biosolids. The paper discusses research needs to link urban sanitation management to cities’ economic development agenda.

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