Category Archives: Technology

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

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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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The Guardian – Can mapping faecal flows cut the crap in developing cities?

Can mapping faecal flows cut the crap in developing cities? | Source: The Guardian, June 16, 2016 |

Human waste often ends up in drains, rivers, fields and on beaches, but fast growing cities can use data grabs to improve their sanitation conditions

Rapid urbanisation in many parts of the developing world is putting an increasing strain on the ability of cities to deliver critical services such as water and sanitation. More than half of the world’s population – 54% – live in urban areas and some 700 million of them do not use an improved sanitation facility, where human waste is separated from human contact.

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Children fish on a river bank in one of downtown Jakarta’s slum areas next to public toilets. Photograph: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images

But even where there are such facilities, this does not necessarily translate into environmentally safe practices. More than two billion people in urban areas use toilets connected to septic tanks or latrine pits that are not safely emptied or that discharge raw sewage into open drains or surface waters. With another 2.5 billion people expected to live in cities by 2050, authorities urgently need to keep up with the growing urban population, ensure equitable access to improved sanitation, and safeguard the appropriate and environmentally-safe management of human waste.

Believe it or not, mapping the journey of faecal waste is an important part of the solution. IRC’s new sanitation assessment tool offers a simple representation of the volumes of sludge safely (and unsafely) dealt with at each stage of the sanitation chain, allowing city planners to determine where the biggest losses are and where to focus their (often limited) budgets.

Although tools to assess faecal sludge management (FSM) do already exist, they are either not able to include qualitative information or the scorecards they provide do not give adequate explanations for a bad score, nor do they provide actual volumes, which makes it difficult to translate the results into action. IRC’s tool, however, analyses the availability and enforcement of policy and legislation, and the presence of and adherence to health and safety through specific scorecards.

Read the complete article.

Top Technologies in Environment & Sustainability 2016 – Research and Markets

Top Technologies in Environment & Sustainability 2016 – Research and Markets | Source: Business Wire, May 19 2016bwlogo_extreme

This research report highlights the top ten environmental technologies that increases the earth’s sustainability and are projected to make the highest impact in the near and medium terms. The technologies have been filtered from a wide spectrum of atmospheric, land-based, water and general environmental technologies using TechVision’s proprietary selection methodology. The assessment criteria cover patenting activity, funding, market potential, Mega Trend impact, regional adoption potential, sectors of economic impact, technology disruptiveness, and the environment and sustainability cluster evolution.

Each section on the top technologies present an overview of market trends and potential, patent landscape, funding, application impact, Mega Trend impact, disruptiveness, regional trends, innovators, and key strategic planning points.

The top ten technologies in environment and sustainability are food waste upcycling, membrane biofilm wastewater treatment, micro irrigation, off-grid desalination, particulate air pollution control, point source carbon dioxide reduction, precision agriculture, waste-to-energy, wastewater membrane filtration and wastewater nutrient recovery

Read the complete article.

Interesting innovation with WASH implications

Spinach, Carrots Are Good for You … And for Making Prosthetics, Say UK Scientists | Source: Sustainable Brands, May 9 2016 |

Scientists in the United Kingdom are using spinach leaves and carrots to investigate selective formation of metallic nanoparticles in plastics. The researchers are working to form conductive circuits and create antimicrobial surfaces by accelerating the production of metals already embedded in treated plastic materials using chemicals from the plants. If successful, the practical applications include smart prosthetics, medical devices for hospitals, mobile phones, and other ‘smart’ surfaces.

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Image credit: Heriot-Watt University

Besides devices, the research could also lead to state-of-the-art antimicrobial coatings that could facilitate the creation of cheaper, more reliable ways to improve sanitation in developing countries by creating bacteria-resistant coatings for three dimensional surfaces such as pipes. Such coatings may be able to eliminate micro-organisms that currently cause illnesses and diarrhoeal disease, which kills over 750,000 children each year.

“This method that could be implemented by any country with minimum amount of equipment, is another example of the power of bio-inspired manufacturing.” Desmulliez said.

Read the complete article.

Two Brilliant Solutions For Addressing India’s Huge Sanitation Crisis

My View: Two Brilliant Solutions For Addressing India’s Huge Sanitation Crisis | Source: The Better India, April 1 2016 |

India’s sanitation crisis is immense and not easily solved. Over 600 million people in rural and urban areas defecate in the open.  The nation cannot incessantly wait.  Two recently developed solutions may help.

The magnitude of India’s sanitation crisis may be summed up in one sentence: two-thirds of urban residents do not have toilets and access to the sewer grid, and over 600 million people in rural and urban areas defecate in the open. Where the grid does not serve toilets, faeces is periodically collected from unsustainable septic tanks and pit latrines to be discarded in open areas, landfill sites, lakes, and freshwater sources. The tragedy of our commons therefore multiplies manifold, as do health consequences.

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Bio toilets

Two Sustainable Solutions

The nation cannot incessantly wait. Two recently developed solutions may find mention here.

The first, the DRDO Bio-Digestion Toilet, a serendipitous innovation born from the need for sanitation for army personnel in the Himalayas, was not invented to address the civilian sanitation crisis.

Read the complete article.

Library and resources on WASH & ICT

Eric Nitschke has developed on online library and list of resources for sharing knowledge related to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector.

  • A growing  of publications, reports, and handbooks
  • Resource pages related to ICT4D and  WASH containing links to research centers, networks, journals, public/private/civil society orgs, wikis, blogs and other useful websites
  • Recent articles I’ve read that might be of interest to development practitioners
  • A summary of my current work and interests and different ways to contact me

Many of these materials contain valuable insights, good practices, and lessons learned which can be used by WASH and other development stakeholders to enhance the design and implementation of their projects and initiatives, especially those seeking to harness ICTs.

Desperate To Pee? This App Will Help You Find The Nearest Toilet

Desperate To Pee? This App Will Help You Find The Nearest Toilet | Source: Huffington Post, March 9 2016 |

It’s easy to turn any corner and find a cab or a restaurant or a happening event waiting for you. But when you literally want to go ‘around the corner’, there’s usually no toilet to be found. Fortunately, a new app called Find x Toilet, created by developer Ishan Anand, helps you answer nature’s call by telling you the location of the nearest loo in Delhi.

The app uses the phone’s location services and GPS to find and show the nearest toilets and even offers ratings based on cleanliness and usability. It will also show you the shortest route to the toilet, pretty handy when you’re pressing both legs together. You can also rate the facilities and upload photos of them for the perusal of other discerning bathroom-goers. FIND-A-TOILET-large570

Launching the application in Delhi, Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung suggested that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) should make use of this app and keep the conditions of the toilets updated. App creator Anand said that this Find x Toilet was developed to complement the Swachh Bharat initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (hopefully fewer walls will be substituted for urinals). Anyone can download the Android app and contribute to the cause.

Read the complete article.