Tag Archives: Ecosan

WASHplus Weekly: Focus on Ecological Sanitation

Issue 43 February 17, 2012 | A Focus on Ecological Sanitation

This WASHplus Weekly contains recent studies, guidelines, and videos on ecological sanitation. Ecological sanitation, or Ecosan, is not a specific technology but an approach to sanitation that regards sanitized human excreta and grey water as a resource. Some of the resources in this issue include a handbook on latrine construction from WaterAid, case studies from Bangladesh, Haiti, Rwanda, and Uganda, and a presentation on ecological sanitation as a business in Malawi.

WSP – Analysis of ecological sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa

WSP Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). 2009. Study for Financial and Economic Analysis of Ecological Sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa. (pdf, 5MB)

This study on financial and economic analysis of ecological sanitation (ecosan) in Sub-Saharan Africa was financed by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP). It focused on a comparison of sanitation technologies suitable for urban settlements.

The aim of the study was to compare ecosan with conventional sanitation systems in terms of financial and economic costs and benefits, in order to assist decision-makers and sponsors of development programs to make informed decisions about relative merits of different types of sanitation. To achieve this, an analytical framework and a computer model were developed to assess and compare different technologies in terms of financial and economic Net Present Value (NPV).

The economic benefits derived from improved sanitation include health and environmental benefits, as well as those which are associated to excreta reuse. The latter is modeled by taking into account the volume of excreta, the mass of nutrients produced, and the monetary value of increased crop yields. Although there are a wide range of ecosan technologies, the study focused on those which have been implemented at sufficient scales, to enable a more robust analysis based, on a more extensive data set possible.

South Africa: wastewater is a resource

South Africa faces chronic water shortages, yet billions of litres are flushed away every year. Being one of the driest countries in the world, the conservation of water resources and managing wastewater should be a top priority for government. [According to] the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) […] water shortage is a genuine threat as 98 percent of the country’s water resources are already fully utilised. […] WWF estimates that by the year 2025 South Africa will have a water deficit of 1.7 percent.

[…] One of the ways to protect and conserve water is to focus on the recycling of waste water, according to water experts gathered in Cape Town for a water seminar in May [2009]. The event was attended by water experts from Europe and South Africa and formed part of an economic and political mission of the Dutch governmental delegation comprising of minister of Development Cooperation Bert Koenders and deputy minister of Foreign Trade Frank Heemskerk.

“We should change our mindsets about wastewater,” said Brendon Meulman, project manager at Landustrie, a Dutch company that specialises in wastewater management. “We should stop seeing it as waste and a burden, but rather as a resource”.

“Toilet water for instance, is rich in organic material,” he explained. “If the concentration of this so-called black water is high enough, you can create energy out of this organic material. You can also turn it into compost and fertiliser.”

[…] Apart from reducing the amount of wastewater and waste, the system does not require water to flush excrement. Similar systems are already in operation in South Africa, for instance in Durban were thousands of dry toilets have been installed. “We work with so-called vacuum toilets that are already used on cruise ships,” he told IPS. “”According to our calculations, a vacuum toilet saves 36 litres of water per person per day,” said Meulman. “That is over 25 percent of your daily total water consumption.”

According to Meulman, this technology is not applicable only in high-income countries. “We have developed a low tech version which is specifically meant to service informal settlements and squatter camps,” he explained. “It is a self-contained system that is not dependent on energy sources. It basically comprises of a container that is equipped with toilets and urinals, which are vandalism proof, hygienic and clean.”

[…] The chances of the vacuum toilet system solving South Africa’s water problems are slim, as government figures show that domestic consumption accounts for just 12 percent of all water used in South Africa. Industry, mining, and power generation together consume another 12.5 percent and agricultural irrigation accounts for around 52 percent the country’s water use.

[…] Koenders emphasised that it is not only toilet water that needs to be looked at. “The country’s water problems are further impacted by the fact that mines are contaminating rivers and other water bodies,” he told IPS.

[…] The problems mentioned by Koenders were key focal points of a 2008 report presented by South Africa’s National Nuclear Regulator. The publication predicted serious problems with the country’s water supply, including radioactive pollution and waste dumping. It also suggested that wastewater from mines was seeping into the country’s groundwater.

The water and forestry department however, denied a looming water crisis. In a statement, forestry and water affairs minister Lindiwe Hendricks said that South Africa’s drinking water quality was rated among the best in the world. […] “Indeed, due to mining and other human activities, the water quality is affected in some parts of the country,” Marius Keet, Director of Water Quality Management of Forestry and Water Affairs of the Gauteng province, said. “But it is not a crisis. It is a challenge, that needs to be addressed.”

Source: Miriam Mannak, IPS, 08 Jun 2009

Nepal: Darechowk village upscales ecological sanitation

Ecosan toilets. Photo: WHO, Nepal

Ecosan toilets. Photo: WHO, Nepal

With over 120 ecosan toilets now operational, Darechowk village in Chitwan district is on its way to upscaling the practice of eco sanitation. Made of mud masonry or using split-bamboo walls, many toilets are in good use already, fertilizing the fields and yet maintaining a sanitary environment.

[…] Encouraged by a sanitation training course he attended in Bharatpur in 2007, Shreerendra Pokharel, the headmaster of the Majhgaun Lower Secondary School, convinced the community to embark on a sanitation programme stewarded by the school. This triggered considerable interest in the community on adopting ecosan latrines since the accumulated urine could be diverted for use in farms.

Darechowk is doing well from the sale of tasty oranges and sanitation is progressing in all the clusters in the Village Development Committee (VDC) area, with ecological sanitation fast becoming the preferred choice. As building materials are expensive, people use local materials primarily for the toilet superstructure. This accessibility enables people to have safe sanitation, and the urine diverted is used in agriculture. The community now has plans to convert the village into an ecological tourism area, with trekking routes and “bed-and-breakfast” facilities.

For details contact Mr Han Heijnen, WHO, Nepal at hanheijnen [at] gmail.com

Source: Environment Health Update, vol. 4, no. 2, Feb-Apr 2009

Toilet technology flipbook

WaterAid has produced a low cost toilet technology flipbook that lets you find out about the advantages and disadvantages of a range of latrine technologies. The resource is based on the 2004 publication called Low cost toilet options, which was put together by Social Marketing for Urban Sanitation, a research project funded by DFID, to help house owners in low-income urban communities choose an appropriate low-cost toilet. The drawings were produced by WEDC, Water Engineering Development Centre.

The flipbook allows you to mix and match the three toilet components: superstructure, slab and pit or vault. For each correct combination total costs are calculated. Both pit latrine and ecosan models are used. WaterAid plans to plans to update the flipbook.

Check out the flipbook here.

Nepal, Lalitpur: new sanitation initiative benefitting Lubhu people

Lalitpur: The people living in Lubhu [or Luboo], and its vicinity are now happy that they now [have improved sanitation and ended the practice of open defecation]. “After two years of continuous efforts made by the [Lubhu Infrastructure and Environment Improvement Committee (LIEIC)], most of the villages in the areas have been free from this serious problem,” Ram Bahadur Shrestha, chairman of the of Committee, said.

[…] A total of 152 toilets, including both general and ecological sanitary [ecosan] toilets, have been constructed at private households as well as public places at the initiative of the committee and UN-HABITAT. Anil Sthapit, director of [NGO] Guthi, said that bricks have been laid down in 2,000 square metres of local roads and a drainage system

[Besides sanitation, a new piped water supply system was constructed and over 50 traditional wells and ponds revived]. Also the 800 students of local Mahalaxmi Secondary School have benefitted from a rainwater harvesting system, [with a capacity of 5,00 litres], installed in the area. The water is processed through a bio-sand filter processing system.

A total of 803 locals were trained to make villages free from pollution, maintain safe drainage facilities and create public health awareness campaign in the area. These people are now providing training to other people.

The project was a joint effort of the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction, Centre for Integrated Urban Development, WaterAid Nepal and UN-HABITAT.

See a short Nepalnews.com video (in Nepali) on the Lubhu project here.

Source:  NGO Forum, 05 Jan 2009 ; The Kathmandu Post / NGO Forum, 04 Jan 2008

Nepal, Kathmandu: squatters find way to rid of river pollution

Until a year ago, life was like a nightmare for squatters of Narayan tole behind the Maharajgunj-based Kanti Children’s Hospital: [a] pungent smell emanated from the polluted Samakhusi River [and] the squatters [suffered from] diseases, including diarrhoea, eye shore and dysentery.

[T]he squatters sought help from […] Lumanti, an NGO working in the slums, Water Aid and UN-HABITAT, [who] contributed Rs. 90,000 and technical expertise. Two small wastewater treatment plants (septic tank with upflow bio-filters) were built with this assistance. […] Twenty-eight households of the area have linked their toilet sewage pipes with these tanks, which discharge only clean water into the river. The squatters use decomposed waste as fertiliser.

“Earlier, only a few of us had toilets in our households. We used to defecate out in the open at night. The handful of toilets had their drainage pipes linked with the river,” said Gita Devi Dhakal, one of the squatters.

[…] With Asian Development Bank funding, the department of Urban Development and Building Construction (DUDBC), under the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works (MoPPW), is constructing over 30 bigger wastewater treatment plants under the Urban and Environmental Improvement project (UNIP) in a number of cities.

[However], the bigger the plant, the more it costs. [S]mall [household] treatment plants [are cheaper and occupy little space].

“Every planner can learn a lesson from the initiative of the Narayan tole squatter community,” said Lajana Manandhar, executive director of LUMANTI. “If all households build small plants, then we can clean up the polluted rivers of Kathmandu without having to wait for donors.”

Source: The Kathmandu Post / NGO Forum, 02 Dec 2008

Nepal, Siddhipur: Ecosan toilets bring multiple benefits

Until a few years ago, Saraswati Maharjan-33, a resident of Siddhipur-8 on the outskirts of Kathmandu, had to walk 10 minutes from her home to attend nature’s call in the open communal defecation area. But that’s happily a history now. The lives of villagers in Siddhipur-8 has radically changed after the introduction of Ecosan toilets.

[…]. The Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS) initiated a pilot project in Siddhipur in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2002. […]. Following the pilot project of government, many I/NGOs namely, UN-HABITAT, Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) stepped in to extend support for further expansion of the toilets. The result: More than 100 households now own Ecosan toilets and many others own the Safety-tank toilets.

According to an estimate of DWSS, over 1000 Ecosan toilets have been built throughout Nepal and most of them are located in Kathmandu Valley.

Read more: The Kathmandu Post / NGO Forum, 03 August 2008

See also:

Rajbhandari, K. (2008). Ecological sanitation latrines : the experience of Nepal. In: Beyond construction : use by all : a collection of case studies from sanitation and hygiene promotion practitioners in South Asia. London, UK, WaterAid and Delft, The Netherlands, IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre.

Siddhipur community constructs eco-friendly future, Source Bulletin 47 feature, Feb 2007

South Africa – Ecotoilets worm their way into many hearts

NON–FLUSH, totally organic and self-emptying portable toilets which make use of hungry earthworms are being made in Knysna.

Knysna entrepreneur Adrian Wilson-Forbes said two test toilets at the Pezula resort had been operating successfully for the past seven months without any need for servicing.

This self-sustaining ecosystem houses earthworms in so-called worm houses made from recycled plastic in a container below the toilet bowl. The worms gobble up the solid waste and recycle it to produce compost.

Wilson-Forbes said: “The solids sit on top and are digested by the earthworms, which multiply or decrease in number according to the amount of food available.

More – Herald Online

Tanzania: Farmers to Use Human Waste As Fertiliser

Farmers in Bukoba rural will soon start using sanitised human waste to fertilise their crops, an official has said. Kagera Development and Credit Revolving Fund (Kadetfu) executive director Yusto Muchuruza said that the idea follows the introduction of the ecosan toilets.


Four villages in the district have initially been earmarked for the Ecosan toilet project: Mulaya, Rwagati, Kyema and Kanazi. In Kagera region a demo Ecosan toilet has already been built at the Kashozi secondary school. A Kenyan environmental organisation, Osienala, is funding the construction.

Read more: Joas Kaijage, The Citizen (Dar es Salaam) / allAfrica.com, 24 May 2008