WHY TA HUB?

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GLOBAL SANITATION OVERVIEW

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FAECAL SLUDGE MANAGEMENT (FSM) & NON-SEWERED SANITATION (NSS) 

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A CALL FOR INNOVATIVE ACTION - CITYWIDE INCLUSIVE SANITATION (CWIS)

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GLOBAL SANITATION OVERVIEW

Access to basic sanitation is being viewed increasingly as an essential human right and as a fundamental element for poverty alleviation, good health and economic growth. Progress made over the course of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for sanitation were commendable. According to Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), 74% of the world’s population used at least basic sanitation services and population using safely managed sanitation services increased from 28% in 2000 to 45% in 2017, with number of people practicing open defecation being nearly half from 1.3 billion to 673 million in the same period. Rural sanitation coverage also increased quickly during the period.

However, despite major efforts and impressive achievements, the sanitation challenge around the world remains daunting. Rate of progress were too slow for the MDG target to be met globally (WHO Factsheet). Around 2.3 billion people still lack access to basic sanitation service and only 39% of people have access to safely managed sanitation (World Bank, WHO, 2018).

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The MDGs were succeeded by the landmark Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a self-standing goal for access to water and sanitation (SDG 6). The new goal has brought a more stringent approach to meeting the sanitation targets, with overall focus being on universal coverage. 

The sanitation-related SDG requires, among others, that excreta be safely treated and disposed on-site, or transported and treated off site. The sludge from the on-site sanitation systems should be safely withdrawn, treated and disposed of. As this practice has not been followed by the cities of developing and least developed countries, the sanitation coverage dropped significantly, making it improbable to meet the SDG targets and indicators.

In the context of South Asia and South East Asia, poor sanitation situation is stifling economic growth in the region. With neighborhoods and public spaces turning into open sewers, managing waste and ensuring proper sanitation services has been challenging in many cities of these regions. Since 1990, the % of population using improved sanitation in South Asia and Southeast Asia increased by 25% at the end of MDGs in 2015. However, half of the population in South Asia still lack access to improved sanitation.

By the introduction of SDGs, specifically SDG 6.2, countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and India have made significant improvement in providing basic sanitation. Bangladesh, which remains one of the focuses of the proposed TA Hub interventions, has seen remarkable progress in access to sanitation since its independence in 1971. Improved sanitation coverage in the country increased by 28% since 2003 (Bangladesh SDG Progress Report, 2018). 77% of the population live in households with improved sanitation facilities, including shared facilities. Open defecation in the urban areas was practically eliminated to just 1% in 2016, which was about 18% in 2000. However, albeit significant improvement in open defecation, the overall urban sanitation coverage is only 54% according to MDG standards, where 30% by latrines, 15% by septic tank and 9% by sewer connections. Furthermore, improved sanitation coverage was only 33% and 42% of the population had no latrine for defecation.

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Problems in sanitation services include, among others, unsafe management of sludge from latrines and septic tanks, with almost all disposed in water bodies and drains; lack of proper toilets in densely packed communities; onsite sanitation in majority of households with manual emptying of fecal sludge; under-developed transport and treatment services for sewage and fecal sludge; and overlap in institutional responsibilities. In addition, other disparities, affecting sanitation services and management also need to be effectively addressed in Bangladesh. For example, there is a gap in sanitation access in geographically difficult areas like char, haor, coastal belt and hilly areas. Furthermore, the threat posed by climate change in WASH infrastructures, particularly in disaster-prone areas need additional attention.

Against this backdrop, a call to action is needed to embrace a radical shift in urban sanitation practices to achieve effective and proper sanitation. Recognizing the need to emphasize better sanitation services, number of efforts and initiatives have been witnessed to improve the situation with firm commitments at highest levels. With donors increasing their aid commitments for sanitation, and countries taking measures with integrated plans for managing sanitation, much more effort is still needed to improve the access to water and sanitation services, increase wastewater treatment, expand operational cooperation in sanitation service chains and ensure that transmission of diseases such as Covid-19, cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid are avoided. Comprehensive approaches to sanitation improvement need to be developed, which include long-term planning, technical innovation, institutional reforms and financial mobilization. This needs to couple with proper leadership, political will and leadership to drive innovative approaches in sanitation.

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FAECAL SLUDGE MANAGEMENT (FSM) & NON-SEWERED SANITATION (NSS) 

Although over 80% of urban dwellers in cities of the developing world are using on-site systems like pits and septic tanks, traditional sewer networks have historically been the legitimized approach to urban sanitation among engineers, infrastructure planners, and governments. However, this large and centralized infrastructure is often not the most sustainable, nor financially or technically feasible solution in developing countries. In most cities, sewers do not extend beyond central business districts. The infrastructure rarely reaches informal settlement populations and other vulnerable groups, limited by issues including but not limited to challenging topographies, land tenure and government recognition issues, informally planned and built urban communities, utility service boundaries, project investments that are not inclusive of the costs to extend networks to low income communities or to connect poor households to sewers, and missing political will, among others.

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As a result of the issues described above, & others, non-sewered sanitation (NSS)—a broad term referring to onsite & decentralized sanitation hardware and services — is more prevalent, context-appropriate, and adaptable in many urban contexts. Given this finding, there is a need to advocate, develop, and support technologies, service models and business models that formally incorporate NSS and reach all residents with safe, equitable sanitation services.

Investment in urban sanitation has increased substantially over the past several years, including in South and South East Asia. Bangladesh alone has more than $1.7 billion USD worth of investments in urban sanitation, including funding from the National Government and Development Banks (ADB, IsDB, AIIB, WB, etc.). Governments and development banks are starting to include NSS and Fecal Sludge Management (FSM)—the safe management of waste from NSS including safe emptying, conveyance, treatment and disposal/reuse—within those investments. Although there is growing financial commitment in this space, investments are not being properly planned, designed, and implemented. Typically, investments focus on installing infrastructure and not sufficiently on adequate planning, market development, capacity building, and design service models to ensure successful FSM.

ISSUES

Amongst the many challenges to improving the investment in and implementation of improved urban sanitation services are:

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  • Missing goals and capacity for designing systems that are inclusive of the poor and incorporate gender differences;
     

  • Insufficient technical capacity of sanitation authorities and contracted consultants supporting system design;
     

  • Missing goals and capacity for designing systems that are inclusive of the poor and incorporate gender differences;
     

  • Missing targets or monitoring plans for impact on health and economic needs.

  • Missing or inadequate incentive structures and support for capacity building and organizational change needed within the sanitation authority responsible for ensuring service delivery (generally the utility or city);
     

  • Infrastructure investments not planned or accompanied by viable service models or business plans, and inadequate engagement of existing informal and small-scale service providers;

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A CALL FOR INNOVATIVE ACTION - CITYWIDE INCLUSIVE SANITATION (CWIS)

A paradigm shift is needed to move away from the ‘business as usual’ urban sanitation model that benefits only a few people with selective and inadequate services. A new model that incorporates everybody and benefits everybody from adequate sanitation service, with comprehensive and creative approaches to sanitation improvement is necessary. A new public service approach, named City Wide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) has been pioneered by different development institutions.

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CWIS focuses on promoting approaches to ensuring everyone in an urban area is served by safe, equitable and financially viable sanitation service systems. This means systems are designed to reach the poor and to ensure human waste is safely managed along the whole sanitation service chain (safe containment to safe disposal/reuse). In this context, planning, financing, and servicing of NSS and centralized off-site (sewerage) approaches must be planned and deployed in a coordinated manner across a city as appropriate. This comprehensive approach requires long-term planning that takes into consideration population growth and development patterns, planning and investment in other areas of urban infrastructure and services, technical innovation, institutional reforms, and mobilization of reliable financing and revenue from a range of sources.

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To advance and sustain SDG outcomes at a meaningful scale, all CWIS systems must have three core characteristics:

  • A responsible authority(ies) is executing a public mandate for inclusive urban service delivery;

  • The authority(ies) is accountable for performance against its mandate;

  • Resource management and planning reflect authority mandates, priorities, and performance accountability.

These comprehensive approaches to sanitation improvements and delivery will require long-term planning, technical and service delivery innovation, institutional and regulatory reforms and new, innovative ways of mobilizing funding for the sector. In addition, mainstreaming them into sanitation planning requires considerable efforts and adaptation from current practices, agile methods, knowledge dissemination and coordinated approaches of all stakeholders in rethinking new sanitation project design and implementation.

The novel concept of CWIS, however, has not been understood by sanitation sector professionals and consultants. There is insufficient knowledge also on the innovative concepts underlying NSS and FSM approaches, and means to integrate them into service delivery systems. Missing incentives or time/support also makes it difficult to gain this expertise. A small group of I/NGOs have extensive experience in NSS and FSM, but mostly at a demo project or pilot scale.

Integrating their work into city or utility system, planning at city-scale is absent, leading to inability to win consultancies for large scale projects. There are, however, examples of successful CWIS/FSM/NSS projects by I/NGOs and service models of utilities in Asia, including Bangladesh, which have the potential to be replicated at scale with the appropriate support, planning, investment and incentives. Hence, technical assistance is critically needed to guide operations, close the knowledge gaps and demonstrate what works in practice.

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