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 . 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.
Kigali Eco-Toilet. Photo: Eugene Dusingizumuremyi / SuSanA
The capital city of Rwanda has turned a delay in funding into an opportunity to revise its plans so that more areas get connected to a new centralised sewerage system. Construction of a US$ 70 million wastewater treatment plant in Giti Cyinyoni, Nyarugenge District, was due to start in 2012 but has been delayed by one year.
The lack of a centralised sewage system in Kigali (pop. 1 million) has been forcing real estate developers to provide onsite sewerage systems for new housing units. Schools, hospitals and other public buildings are already required by law to have their own sewerage systems. In future all these onsite systems will be connected to the new centralised system.
In 2008, according to a survey, 80% of the people in Kigali still used pit latrines . These have proved to be not only hard to maintain, but also expensive to manage in the long run. That’s why the city council recently passed a bylaw that instructs developers to install flush toilets connected to septic tanks.
 Hohne, A., 2011. State and drivers of change of Kigali’s sanitation : a demand perspective : paper presented at the East Africa practioners workshop on pro-poor urban sanitation and hygiene, Laico Umbano Hotel, Kigali, Rwanda, March 29th – 31st 2011 . [online] The Hague, The Netherlands: IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. Available at: <http://www.irc.nl/page/64586>
Related website: Kigali City – Water and Sanitation Programmes
- Susan Babijja, City Council reviews sewage management plan, New Times, 26 Oct 2012
- Rwanda: Kigali sewage system delayed by funds, Rwanda Express / allAfrica.com, 14 Jun 2012
- Eric Didier Karinganire, Sewage in Kigali still an issue of concern, Rwanda Focus, 09 Apr 2012