Category Archives: Research

The Role of Network Science in Analyzing Slums in Rapidly Growing Urban Areas

The Role of Network Science in Analyzing Slums in Rapidly Growing Urban Areas | Source: ETH Zurich, Aug 19 2016 |

As Amy Krakowka Richmond and her colleagues see it, military forces operating in nonlinear urban and urban-fringe environments will increasingly have to deal with volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) settings. So, what can these forces do to analyze and anticipate these contexts effectively? Use the latest insights from network theory, argue the authors.

An excerpt: Using Water Resources to Explain Informal Governance Structure

As water is critical for health and wellness of any community, its distribution is absolutely central for maintaining peace and coordination of a region. Urban and peri-urban communities of developing societies offer insights about how both formal government and informal power hierarchy can determine access and control of limited resources. We illustrate the utility of network models by exploring network maps of water availability in urban and peri-urban regions in the developing world. Historically, tension has been fueled when disparate social classes with numerous ethnic affiliations from distinct regions of a state are brought into close proximity and forced to rely on restricted resources. In many cases, political and other influential entities can act as informal gatekeepers, whose role can either aggravate or alleviate such tensions. The complexity of the problem is only made worse by the lack of centralized oversight of the various natural resources, such as water, food, and energy, as well as the physical land upon which these resources are drawn. We suggest that this problem be examined from a systems perspective, by mapping, quantifying and evaluating how well various interdependent systems related to water supply are maintained and balanced. In the figure above we show the various networks that are likely involved in the access and consumption of water.

The water access and consumption network isolates where and how the resources directly impact the population. This network is bi-modal as it is made up two types of nodes: water consumers and water sources. The links indicate which households get water from which source(s). Water is consumed primarily by three sectors: agriculture, households and commercial operations. This network directly reflects constraints to water access—­­how far and how many sources can households access. Households can obtain water from multiple sources. In sub-Saharan Africa for example, a significant portion of the population lacks access to piped water and therefore households rely primarily on springs, communal taps, and open water sources such as lakes and rivers. Analysis of this network can show how water consumption relies on particular types of sources and which suppliers in turn wield the most economic and possibly social and political influence.

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Sewage sludge could make great sustainable fertilizer

Sewage sludge could make great sustainable fertilizer | Source:, Aug 15 2016 |

Ever thought of putting sewage on your plants? Scientists say thermally conditioned sewage sludge serves as an excellent fertilizer to improve soil properties. This was recently published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Nutrition. The major advantage over commercial fertilizers? Sustainable re-use of essential and finite phosphorus resources.

Phosphorus is a key nutrient for all living beings. When deficient in the diet, it severely compromises human health, and when deficient in agriculture, it restricts crop productivity. Without , there can be no food production.

As the source of phosphorus is non-renewable phosphate rocks, there is a strong need for increased recycling to ensure phosphorus security. Efficient use and reduced environmental dissemination of phosphorus throughout the food system is needed to secure the ability to feed a growing global population.

As technological improvements increased the of , it now is a readily available alternative to commercial fertilizers in agriculture. To assess its effectiveness, Andry Andriamananjara from the University of Antananarivo (Madagascar) and his colleagues used a phosphorus radiotracer technique to measure the availability of phosphorus for plants in thermally conditioned sewage sludge.

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Recent sanitation studies

Caught Short: How a Lack of Access to Clean Water and Decent Toilets Plays a Major Role in Child Stunting. WaterAid, July 2016. WaterAid’s new report reveals the extent of the global stunting crisis and the impact a lack of clean water and decent toilets is having on the future of millions of children suffering from malnutrition.

Quantifying Accessibility and Use of Improved Sanitation: Towards a Comprehensive Indicator of the Need for Sanitation Interventions. Nature, July 2016. Results show how a good indicator of the need for sanitation and hygiene interventions can combine evidence of both access and use, from self-reports and objective observation. Such an indicator can inform decisions about sanitation-related interventions, and about scaling programs up or down.

Supporting the Rights of Girls and Women through Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in the East Asia and Pacific Region: Realities, Progress and Opportunities. UNICEF, July 2016. UNICEF provides an overview and analysis of the experiences of girls and women, to establish the current status of MHM programming and action across the region.

Water and Sanitation Entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Vietnam and Timor-Leste: Traits, Drivers and Challenges. Institute for Sustainable Futures, 2016. This paper explores the entrepreneurial traits, motivations, and challenges of different types of water and sanitation entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Timor-Leste. It also looks at the socio-cultural dynamics that affect women’s involvement in leading water and sanitation enterprises.

WASH Nutrition Integration Compendium of Resources. WASHplus, July 2016. This compendium of WASHplus tools and resources is offered to facilitate WASH and nutrition at the global and country levels.

SHARE – PhD in Brief: How effective is sanitation in preventing environmental contamination?

In this video Dr Tarique Md Nurul Huda answers a couple of questions about his SHARE-funded PhD which explored the role of sanitation in peventing contamination of the domestic environment and protecting health in Bangladesh.

For more info on his PhD, visit:…

Learning from Sustained Success: How Community-Driven Initiatives to Improve Urban Sanitation Can Meet the Challenges

Learning from Sustained Success: How Community-Driven Initiatives to Improve Urban Sanitation Can Meet the Challenges. World Development, July 2016.

Authors: Gordon McGranahan, Diana Mitlin.

Past research by one of the authors of this paper has identified four key institutional challenges that community-driven initiatives to improve sanitation in deprived urban settlements face: the collective action challenge of improving community sanitation; the coproduction challenge of working with formal service providers to dispose of the sanitary waste safely; the affordability challenge of reconciling the affordable with what is acceptable to both users and local authorities; and the tenure challenge of preventing housing insecurity from undermining residents’ willingness to commit to sanitary improvement.

In this article we examine how two well-documented, relatively successful and longstanding initiatives, the Orangi Pilot Project and an Alliance of Indian partners, met these challenges. They were met through social innovation, but also through the choice and development of sanitation technologies (simplified sewers for OPP and community toilet blocks for the Indian Alliance) that provided traction for the social innovations. We also explore more recent efforts by civil society partnerships in four African cities, demonstrating some of the difficulties they have faced in trying to overcome these challenges. No equivalent models have emerged, though there has been considerable progress against particular challenges in particular places.

These findings confirm the importance of the challenges, and indicate that these are not just challenges for social organization, but also for technology design and choice. For example, the problem with household pit latrines is not that they cannot physically be improved to sufficiently, but that they are not well-suited to the social, economic and political challenges of sanitary improvement at scale. The findings also indicate that a low economic status and a tendency to treat sanitation as a private good not suitable for public support also makes the sanitation challenges difficult to overcome.

The Knowledge Base for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal Targets on Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene

The Knowledge Base for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal Targets on Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(6), 536; doi:10.3390/ijerph13060536

Authors: Guy Hutton and Claire Chase

Safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are fundamental to an improved standard of living. Globally, 91% of households used improved drinking water sources in 2015, while for improved sanitation it is 68%. Wealth disparities are stark, with rural populations, slum dwellers and marginalized groups lagging significantly behind. Service coverage is significantly lower when considering the new water and sanitation targets under the sustainable development goals (SDGs) which aspire to a higher standard of ‘safely managed’ water and sanitation.

Lack of access to WASH can have an economic impact as much as 7% of Gross Domestic Product, not including the social and environmental consequences. Research points to significant health and socio-economic consequences of poor nutritional status, child growth and school performance caused by inadequate WASH. Groundwater over-extraction and pollution of surface water bodies have serious impacts on water resource availability and biodiversity, while climate change exacerbates the health risks of water insecurity.

A significant literature documents the beneficial impacts of WASH interventions, and a growing number of impact evaluation studies assess how interventions are optimally financed, implemented and sustained. Many innovations in behavior change and service delivery offer potential for scaling up services to meet the SDGs.


The Developing World Urgently Needs Phages to Combat Pathogenic Bacteria

The Developing World Urgently Needs Phages to Combat Pathogenic BacteriaFront. Microbiol., 08 June 2016. Authors: Tobi E. Nagel,  Benjamin K. Chan, et. al.

With the growing global antimicrobial resistance crisis, there is a critical need for alternatives to conventional antibiotics, especially in developing countries. Virulent bacteriophages (phages) represent a viable antibacterial technology that could be particularly beneficial, since phages are active against antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, easy to isolate from contaminated environments, and relatively inexpensive to produce.

We discuss here examples of infectious diseases that significantly affect developing countries, phage applications that could be especially impactful in those settings, and special considerations for implementing phages in the developing world.