Author Archives: dietvorst

Don’t think of treatment plants: building factories to meet the sanitation SDGs

Rwanda  - Pivot fecal sludge treatment 1

Pivot Works factory in Kigali, Rwanda. From left to right: Fecal sludge receiving tank, flocculation tanks, mechanical dewatering machine. Photo: Ashley Muspratt

4,900 days from now, in 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals will expire.  If that feels like a long time, consider the work ahead.  And by work, I dare not attempt to wrap my head around all 17 goals; I refer specifically to the WASH goal – SDG #6 – and even more specifically to the sanitation targets.

From my admittedly invested perch – I run a sanitation company – the most exciting thing about transitioning from the MDGs to the SDGs is the belated inclusion of treatment.  There’s finally recognition that “improved sanitation” without treatment is not improved sanitation.  The WASH community’s new mandate: “halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally” (SDG 6.3).  But consider that the urban population still requiring “safely managed sanitation” today stands at 3.214 billion [1]. Serving them entails expanding safe management, i.e., some form of treatment, to 625,000 people each day for the next 4,900 days.  That’s basically a city a day.

How can we achieve such a massive expansion of safe fecal sludge and wastewater management?  For starters, let’s stop building treatment plants. Heresy? There’s a better way.

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Poor sanitation cost global economy US$ 223 billion in 2015

True cost poor sanitation cover

Lack of access to sanitation cost the global economy US$222.9 billion in 2015, up from US$182.5 billion in 2010, a rise of 22% in just five years, according to a new report released on 25 August 2016 by LIXIL Group Corporation (“LIXIL Group”), a global leader in housing and building materials, products and services.

The true cost of poor sanitation, published in collaboration with WaterAid and Oxford Economics, which conducted economic modeling to develop up-to-date estimations of the global cost of poor sanitation, brings to light the high economic burden in low-income and lower-middle income countries.

More than half (55%) of all costs of poor sanitation are a consequence of premature deaths, rising to 75% in Africa. A further quarter are due to treating related diseases, and other costs are related to lower productivity as a result of illnesses and time lost due to lack of access to a private toilet.

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Can you spend too much on sanitation?

The decision to divert funding from water to sanitation turned sour when drought struck India.

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Ledger. Uttarakhand, India. Photo: IRC

A budget tracking study in India revealed that the shift of policy focus from water to sanitation has resulted in a cut in government spending on rural water supply. This was a cause of concern because at the time of the study (August-December 2015) six of the seven states reviewed were reeling under severe drought.

A Parliamentary Standing Committee report released on 6 May 2016 stated that the government would be unable to achieve its 2017 target of providing 50% rural households with piped water. The media accused the government of starving the National Rural Drinking Water Programme of funds, while at the same time increasing funding for Prime Minister Modi’s flagship sanitation programme “Swachh Bharat”. The government has even introduced an additional 0.5% “Swachh Bharat” service tax.

The Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) is presenting their budget tracking study on 26 July 2016 in Delhi as part of the WASH Dialogues series of events. WASH Dialogues are an initiative of IRC and TARU Leading Edge. CBGA’s presentation will focus on the institutional and procedural bottlenecks that are constraining public expenditure in the water and sanitation sector.

For more information on the event “Tracking policy and budgetary commitments for drinking water and sanitation in the new fiscal architecture in India” go the IRC Events page.

For more on budget tracking see:

This news item was originally published on the IRC website.

Monitoring Africa’s sanitation commitments

IRC helps AMCOW develop a new process to monitor the N’gor declaration

At the 2016 Africa Water Week, civil society called on the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) to honour the region’s commitments on water, sanitation and hygiene, including those agreed in the 2015 N’gor declaration. The four partner organisations in Watershed – empowering citizens, Akvo, IRC, Simavi and Wetlands International, were among those that endorsed the collective statement submitted to AMCOW by the African Network for Water (ANEW).

Progress especially on sanitation has so far been poor; only 4% between from 2000 to 2015, according to Al-hassan Adam from End Water Poverty. A recent IRC/WSUP finance brief stated that only eight African countries provide data on sanitation expenditure. All of them are falling behind on their N’gor declaration commitment to spend 0.5% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on sanitation. Exerting pressure to speed up progress on sanitation is an obvious task for those civil society organisations (CSOs) that Watershed aims to support.

Next to lobbying AMCOW to honour its sanitation commitments, IRC is also advising the ministerial council on the development of a new process to monitor the N’gor declaration. The aim of the new monitoring process is to create reflective dialogue processes at country and subregional levels and strengthen mechanisms for accountability to citizens and political leaders informed by evidence.

So far a Regional Action Plan has been developed, and indicators and scoring criteria have been reviewed through a series of sub-regional consultations led by AMCOW in Nairobi, Dakar and Johannesburg in May and June 2016. See below an example of an indicator with scoring criteria.

For more information, read the background paper prepared by Alana Potter.

Ngor indicator typology

This news item was originally published on the IRC website.

DFID should ensure sustainability of its WASH programmes – independent review

Richard Gledhill  ICAI

Richard Gledhill

By Richard Gledhill, ICAI lead commissioner for WASH review

62.9 million people – almost the population of the UK – that’s how many people in developing countries DFID claimed to have reached with WASH interventions between 2011 and 2015.

It’s an impressive figure. And – in our first ever ‘impact review’ – it’s a figure the Independent Commission for Aid Impact found to be based on credible evidence.

We assessed the results claim made by DFID about WASH, testing the evidence and visiting projects to see the results for ourselves. We  concluded that the claim was credible – calculated using appropriate methods and conservative assumptions.

But what does reaching 62.9 million people really mean? Have lives been transformed? And have the results been sustainable?

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VIA Water second faecal sludge webinar report

Which technical options are available for the reuse of faecal sludge? Report of a VIA Water webinar led by Jan Spit.

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© S. Blume/SuSanA Secretariat

Report on the webinar: read the questions that were asked before and during the webinar, and Jan Spit’s answers to them:

  1. D2B: http://english.rvo.nl/subsidies-programmes/develop2build-d2b
  2. DRIVE: http://english.rvo.nl/subsidies-programmes/development-related-infrastructure-investment-vehicle-drive

In Germany: KfW: https://www.kfw.de/International-financing/. For innovative funding, look at: http://www.traidwheel.nl/appropriate-finance/Innovative-financing-mechanisms

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Water.org launches Water and Sanitation Challenge for India

Win US$ 250,000 for you idea on how to ensure that low-income households in India get water and sanitation services.

India-Water[dot]org

Photo: Water.org

How can market-based approaches expand water and sanitation solutions among low-income households in India? This is the question that the Water and Sanitation Challenge seeks to answer.

The Challenge is an initiative of Water.org and OpenIDEO. It focusses on accelerating efforts that meet some specific criteria – such as developing local partnerships and having operations on the ground in India.  Top Ideas will be considered for approximately US$ 250,000 and mentorship from Water.org.

For more information read the challenge brief at: www.water.org/challenge

The deadline for idea submission is March 7th, 2016.