Tag Archives: ecological sanitation

A human-waste gold mine: Bill Gates looks to reinvent the toilet

An article in Time Magazine highlights the collaboration between the Gates Foundation and Germany in finding innovative solutions for sanitation in developing countries.

The Head of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene department at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Frank Rijsberman, talls about new ideas for using human excrement. “Human waste could be a real gold mine”, he jokes.

In April 2001, Bill Gates not only met German Development Minister Dirk Niebel but also German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff in Berlin.

In a press conference he told journalists that they didn’t talk politics, but discussed the idea of the “ultimate toilet.”

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Philippines – Closing the Loop between Sanitation and Food Security

Closing the Loop between Sanitation and Food Security for the ´Base of the Pyramid´

June 9, 2011 – If consumers in the advanced Western economies have a hard time swallowing the idea of drinking water recycled from sewage, that may be nothing compared with what those in the Philippines have to go through when they consider eating foods raised from fertilizer recycled from human wastes.

But that´s exactly what a local foundation based in the boondocks of Mindanao has been advocating, and is now actively looking for “technology off-takers” who are willing to partner with them to literally ´close the loop´ by recycling human wastes as fertilizers for agricultural use in food production.

“There are more than 20 million Filipinos suffering the indignities and health hazards of not having access to proper sanitation,” said Dan Lapid, president/executive director of the  Center for Advanced Philippine Studies.

Water, Agroforestry, Nutrition and Development (WAND) Foundation, a local NGO that promotes social development via ecological sanitation (EcoSan), aims to close the gap in the country´s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in the proportion of the population using an improved sanitation facility.

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Malawi – In Praise of Dry Sanitation

LILONGWE, Mar 9, 2011 (IPS) – At its best it is waterless, odorless, eminently affordable and has a rich fertiliser as byproduct, yet for residents of Malawi’s informal settlements, dry sanitation retains a whiff of the unwanted.

As much as two-thirds of Malawi’s two-million strong urban population live in slum conditions without proper toilets. In densely-crowded Lilongwe townships like Mtsiriza, Mgona, or Senti, dozens of people often share a single convenience.

Alex Makande of Mgona township lives in a compound with 83 people. “It is a terrible situation. Mornings are even worse. People queue up to go to the toilet and sometimes we have to ask to use toilets in nearby compounds which are not as crowded.”

Access to pipe-borne water is limited in areas like this; sewerage mainlines generally non-existent.

Monalissa Nkhonjera, a communications and learning officer for international NGO WaterAid, explains that an average compound in the shanty townships has eight households, but there is usually only one pit latrine.

WaterAid is working in Lilongwe’s slums, implementing an appropriate, water-sensible solution. “We are promoting the construction of eco-san latrines with slabs as a cover for the pit and with either a tin or grass-thatched roof. The walls are made of baked or unbaked bricks.”

The eco-sanitation latrines have two pits. Household ash is scattered into the latrine after every visit to the toilet to minimise smell and speed up decomposition. After one pit fills, use switches to the other, and the waste in the full pit is given time to fully decompose into a rich, safe manure.

Unloved facilities

But Manesi Phiri of Senti, another informal settlement on the outskirts of Lilongwe where WaterAid is promoting them, remains unsatisfied.

“Flush toilets are more convenient. All you need is to flush out the excreta after a visit to the toilet. Pit latrines compound the low status of us poor people. They are very demeaning,” she told IPS.

Pit latrines, she said, are a marker of poverty, whereas flush toilets are a status symbol. Phiri also said communities in urban townships do not have much use for the fertiliser that is produced in the eco-sanitation latrines.

“We do not have gardens in our communities and we do not cultivate any crops so we do not need the fertiliser. We cannot sell this kind of fertiliser to city dwellers; they use chemical fertiliser for their kitchen gardens as they find the fertiliser from the latrines disgusting.”

Phiri concedes the fertiliser from the eco-san toilets is free of any odor and looks like any other compost; but she insists that people are put off just thinking of where it comes from.

In Lilongwe’s informal settlements, people are certainly not rejecting eco-sanitation out of hand, though Makande would also prefer a flush toilet: “But this is just a dream for now. We have to continue to use the pit latrines at our disposal and the eco-san latrines are better than the conventional latrines so we must adopt them,” said the man, who works as a night guard in Area 10, one of Lilongwe’s affluent areas.

Should anyone flush?

The poor have limited choice. But with climate change threatening the water supplies of cities not only in Malawi but across the Southern Africa region, a comprehensive plan for urban areas might need to see wealthy people adopt composting toilets.

A toilet uses anywhere from six to 11 litres per flush – the fortunate 640,000 who have access to flush toilets in Malawi each represent a much greater strain on aging water systems than their counterparts in the slums. Millions – hundreds of millions of litres of water are effectively squandered flushing waste into a sewage network, at the end of which it needs further treatment before it can be safely released into the country’s waterways.

In Area 43, one of Lilongwe’s most affluent neighbourhoods, IPS found Richard Gulumba has an eco-san latrine in his backyard. He had it constructed for use during Lilongwe’s frequent water outages.

“But my family and I still find it hard to use a latrine. It reminds me of life in the village and that is not desirable. I grew up poor and I do not want to be reminded the experiences I went through and using a pit latrine is one thing I do not want to do now that I can afford better things like a flush toilet,” said Gulumba.

Like his wealthy counterparts across Africa, perhaps even the world, Gulumba is likely unaware of the many fancier cousins to the twin-chambered latrines being built in the slums. Though prejudice against dry sanitation is pretty widespread, more upmarket waterless toilets can be found from Mexico to Canada to Sweden to Australia.

Stylish latrines

The South African company ECOSAN manufactures a self-contained dry sanitation unit that cleverly uses the action of opening and closing the lid to drive a screw that moves waste into a cleverly ventilated chamber where it turns into compost without further ado. Australia’s Nature Loo provides a system with exchangeable composting chambers and a fan that ensures proper oxygen flow to speed the breakdown.

Inside the house: a “warm white” pedestal with a “honey oak” seat… even the fussiest guests won’t panic until they can’t find a handle to flush.

WaterAid’s Nkhonjera says composting latrines, which prevent pollution of groundwater, are the best option for slum dwellers and rural communities. “These areas are informal settlements and they do not have access to running water. Putting up flush toilets will not be realistic.”

If Southern Africa’s wealthier city dwellers also considered the best use of available water, dry sanitation could take up a more exalted place as a solution to growing water stress.

Source

Smart, eco-friendly sanitation for all in China, lessons for India

Invest in sanitation and wastewater, make treated wastewater available for reuse in urban areas and reduce the GDP loss due to bad health and disease which bad sanitation brings. These are the lessons that India can learn from neighbouring China, says S. Vishwanath, a writer on sustainable water management and sanitation issues.

The four storied apartments in Dongsheng District of Erdos Municipality in Inner Mongolia, China look like any apartment, all 825 of them. They look the same that is until you use the toilet. Detailed instructions nailed to the door tell you how to use them. The urine diverting toilets flush with sawdust instead of water. Urine is collected in tanks tucked away in the basement of the building and used as a fertiliser in a surrounding agricultural field. The solids are composted and reused also as fertiliser. Grey-water coming from the washing machine and bath is treated at a small treatment plant in the development and reused for landscape use. The people who bought the flats did so knowing fully well the systems of sanitation in place and paid the same market rates as the flats which had conventional sanitation systems. This is China’s brave new world of waste and wastewater management.

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Innovation challenge on low-income urban sanitation


Open innovation platform OpenIDEO, in partnership with Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and Unilever, has launched a challenge to address urban sanitation issues through the design of latrines and waste management services.

The OpenIDEO challenge is running in parallel with an on-the-ground IDEO team working in Kumasi, Ghana, who will be addressing the same issues. This is the first time that IDEO has used the OpenIDEO platform in conjunction with a traditional project structure.

The OpenIDEO process starts with Inspiration, moves to Concepting and ends with Evaluation. The two month long challenge began on 17 November 2010 and ends on 6 January 2011 when the winners will be announced. So far nearly 70 inspirational ideas have been posted ranging from Oxfam’s manual desludging pump for septic tanks to the X-Runner module squat toilets, and from artwork to make toilets more appealing for children to the “No toilet, No Bride” campaign in India.

The “most applauded” idea at the moment is BioCentre concept implemented in Kenya.

Read the full challenge brief and start adding your own inspirations on the OpenIDEO web site.

Making urban excreta and wastewater management contribute to cities’ economic development [journal article]

Koné, D. (2010). Making urban excreta and wastewater management contribute to cities’ economic development: a paradigm shift. Water policy ; vol. 12, no. 4 ; p. 602–610. doi:10.2166/wp.2010.122

Abstract

Cities, as engines of economic growth and social development, require large quantities of natural resources to meet their inhabitants’ economic and social needs. Good infrastructure and reliable service provision are key to sustaining cities’ development. In this regard, they enhance investment opportunities and service access to vulnerable populations. In response to the lack of sanitation infrastructure, many governments, development agencies and NGOs usually implement programmes to provide latrines to poor and vulnerable populations. These programmes often do not link infrastructure provision and its necessary management requirements. As a result, the majority of ‘latrine-based’ cities do not have a reliable solution for emptying latrines, and for the transportation and treatment of faecal sludge and wastewater. When these infrastructures are available, they are disconnected from business opportunities which use resources such as water, nutrients or biosolids for their productive activities. This lingering failure in sanitation is putting a huge financial burden on municipalities who have to rely on permanent subsidies to operate and maintain infrastructures. The recent WHO guidelines on safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater opens doors for reuse opportunities other than agricultural irrigation. It is leading towards a new paradigm. This paper discusses research needs to link urban sanitation management to cities’ economic development agenda.

Contact: Doulaye Koné, Department of Water and sanitation in Developing countries (Sandec), Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Ueberlandstrasse, 133 CH-8600 Duebendorf, Switzerland. Fax:+41 44 823 5399 E-mail: Doulaye.Kone@eawag.ch

Nepal, Chitwan: a toilet revolution

Take a Pee & Get One Rupee. If you have traveled on the Prithvi Highway last year, you must have noticed this seemingly-ridiculous slogan in Darechowk, near Kurintar. Of course, if you have used public toilets before, then you may be more used to paying a rupee to urinate. Instead, members of The Sewa Nepal, a local NGO, pay anyone a rupee if he or she uses their toilet. And no, they are not joking.

“Previously, people used to mock us but now they have realized the message we are trying to convey: Urine is a valuable asset,” says Srirendra Shrestha, founder and coordinator of the NGO. Thus, what the NGO does is collect the urine and convert it to fertilizers for the villagers around. A pretty unique business idea, but there’s more to this than just that.

The NGO, which is involved in environmental conservation and community sanitation, has actively pursued to make Darechowk a model Village Development Committee (VDC). The group’s efforts finally became successful when Darechowk was declared the 18th Open Defecation Free (ODF) VDC in Chitwan a week ago—thus paving the way for a cleaner, sanitized village.

The ODF movement in Nepal has been supported by the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS) in coordination with World Health Organization, UNICEF and NGOs like Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO). The Sewa Nepal has been the local partner of the movement, providing toilet pans and pipes to individual households in Darechowk. Locals say this is a sanitation movement led by the common people. Thus, among the 1,656 households in the VDC, more than half have a proper toilet. Further, around 770 houses have built an EcoSan (short for ecological sanitation) toilet, the most preferred type as it can collect human waste that can be used as fertiliser.

[...]

Mina Pokharel

Mina Pokharel has been using human manure for the past year and is quite impressed with the results. “After I started using urine as fertilizer, the yield has been very good and the vegetables taste better too,” she says. Did it ever feel disgusting? “It did in the beginning. But once I started reaping the benefits, I realized the value of our own waste.”

This revolutionary ecological movement is spearheaded by the VDC officials themselves. The VDC allocated part of its annual budget to support the movement by providing two sacks of cement to each household with additional monetary support for poor families. “We spent about Rs. 1 million [US$ 13,300 = € 10,100] on this movement,” says VDC secretary Nilkantha Lamichchane. “Declaring the VDC an ODF village has immensely boosted the morale of villagers. We hope to have proper toilets in all the households by the end of this year.”

Teachers have played a central role in this movement, which took its current shape after DWSS conducted a School-Led Total Sanitation project in 2006 in the district. The programme stressed on teaching sanitation habits in schools and also held discussions and sanitation awareness campaigns, besides training teachers on the use of various types of toilets. The programme was largely successful; since then 378 community schools and 239 public and private schools in the district have been declared ODF schools. The excitement associated with this movement has spilled over to adjoining VDCs of neighboring districts as well. Villagers from Makwanpur, Gorkha and Dhading are trying to follow the Darechowk model and implement the programme in earnest. However, no municipality has yet been declared ODF in Nepal.

In a country where only 27 percent of the population has access to sanitation, this model is proving to be one of the few shining lights. Districts like Jajarkot and Rukum saw the deaths of hundreds last year due to diarrhoea, a disease that could have been prevented had this model been implemented there. The ODF model is not only important for health reasons. There are important sociological impacts that having a private toilet has had in Darechowk.

Ask Sadhana Adhikari, for instance. The 15-year-old student says a toilet is the best thing to have happened to her. “I don’t have to suffer any more embarrassments during my periods. The toilet offers me privacy and it’s easier to remain clean during that time.”

Related web site: RCNN – Nepal Node for Sustainable Sanitation (NNSS)

Source: Ujjwal Pradhan, Kathmandu Post / NGO Forum, 24 Jul 2010

Video: School sanitation – a common challenge in Kenya

Students at the Ramba High School, Ndori, Kenya have to remove their clothes when using the latrines. They do this avoid the strong smell of the disinfectant sticking to their school uniform. Every year, after the rains, new pit latrines have to be constructed.

To improve sanitation conditions at schools like Ramba High School, GTZ’s EcoSan Promotion Project has constructed Urine Diverting Dehydrating Toilets (UDDTs). These toilets also produce biogas, fertilizer and irrigation water thereby saving on costs of fuel wood and boosting agricultural production.

The EcoSan Promotion Project (EPP) (Oct 2008 – May 2009, ongoing monitoring period until Nov 2010) was a project component of the GTZ Water Sector Reform Programme in Kenya and co-funded by the European Union, SIDA and GTZ.

The video below is an excerpt from a documentary “Promoting Ecological Sanitation in Kenya” by the EU-SIDA-GTZ EcoSan Promotion Project.

Related web sites:

Related video: Sanitation and Hygiene in Kenyan Primary Schools

Terra Preta sanitation: re-discovered from an ancient Amazonian civilisation

Ecosan researchers have found inspiration in the Pre-Columbian black soil (Terra Preta) of the Amazon Basin for “the re-creation of the most successful sanitation system ever”. They will share their enthusiasm in the 1st Workshop on Terra Preta Sanitation with up to 60 participants from 27-30 September 2010 in Groß Ippener (near Bremen), Germany.

The recent discovery of the bio-waste and excreta treatment of a former civilisation in the Amazon reveals the possibility of a highly efficient and simple sanitation system. With the end product that was black soil they converted 10% of former infertile soil of the region into excellent land: Terra Preta do Indio (black soil of the Indians). These soils are still very fertile 500 years after this civilisation has disappeared. Deriving from these concepts, Terra Petra Sanitation (TPS) is in re-development [from the Workshop brochure].

Terra preta soils made by sanitation (adapted from Guenther 2007)

The 3-day Workshop is organised by the Institute of Wastewater Management and Water Protection, of the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH). Besides presentations, discussions and hands-on-work, the organisers promise that there “will be sufficient time for walking, jogging, music (bring your instruments!) or meditation”.

Resource persons are Prof. Dr. Ralf Otterpohl (TUHH), Dr. Jürgen Reckin (10 years of experience with Terra Preta and one of the wold’s best experts in garden plant varieties), Christopher Buzie (years of research in ecological sanitation and vermicomposting, networker in West Africa, TUHH), Torsten Bettendorf and Horacio Factura (Terra Preta Sanitation researchers at TUHH).

Prof Otterpohl and his colleagues have recently published an article on TPS:

Factura, H. … [et al.] , Bettendorf, T., Buzie, C, Pieplow H, Reckin J, Otterpohl R. (2010). Terra Preta sanitation : re-discovered from an ancient Amazonian civilisation : integrating sanitation, bio-waste management and agriculture. Water science and technology ; vol. 61, no. 10 ; p. 2673-2679. doi:10.2166/wst.2010.201

TPS includes urine diversion, addition of a charcoal mixture and is based on lactic-acid-fermentation with subsequent vermicomposting. No water, ventilation or external energy is required. Natural formation processes are employed to transform excreta into lasting fertile soil that can be utilised in urban agriculture. The authors studied the lacto-fermentation of faecal matter with a minimum of 4 weeks followed by vermicomposting. The results showed that lactic-acid fermentation with addition of a charcoal mixture is a suitable option for dry toilets as the container can be closed after usage. Hardly any odour occured even after periods of several weeks. Lactic-acid fermentation alone without addition of bulking agents such as paper and sliced-cut wood to raise the C/N ratio is creating a substrate that is not accepted by worms. [from the abstract]

See also a Powerpoint presentation by Prof. Otterpohl on Terra Petra Sanitation.

Download the Workshop brochure

National Conference on Cost Effective Sustainable Sanitation – an Indian Experience, New Delhi, India, 28-30 June 2010

Organised by: WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Institute in collaboration with WES-Net India, SPHERE India, UNICEF, Water for People (WFP), Wherever the Needs (WTN) and Plan India

Objectives:

  • to share success stories and approaches in promoting sustainable sanitation in India
  • to define strategies to scale-up good practices

Topics:

  • Rural Sanitation
  • Urban Sanitation
  • Ecological Sanitation
  • School Sanitation
  • Solid and Liquid Waste Management
  • Sanitation in Emergency Relief
  • Sanitation Demand Creation through Effective Hygiene Promotion
  • Knowledge Management in Sanitation

Registration fee: Rs. 500/-

Contact:

  • WASH Institute, Email: secretariat@washinstitute.org, Phone: 91 4542 240881; Fax 91 4542 240882
  • R. K. Srinivasan, WES Advisor, Plan India, rk.srinivasan@plan-international.org, Phone: 09717690704

For full details go to the conference web site