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Half the world away? Fecal sludge and septage treatment in low and middle income countries

Martin Gambrill's picture

Co-authors: 
Jan Willem Rosenboom, Sr. Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
Rebecca Gilsdorf, Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist, the World Bank
Ruth Kennedy-Walker, Water Supply and Sanitation Specialist, the World Bank 



An engineering design manual is an unlikely device to set pulses racing and even less likely to grab headlines. Yet within the pages of such a newly-released manual, there are vital solutions for one of the most important sanitation challenges which most people have never heard of. 

Alongside the Global Water Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank’s Citywide Inclusive Sanitation team has worked with globally-renowned expert Kevin Tayler to produce the newly-published book ‘Faecal Sludge and Septage Treatment - A guide for low and middle income countries.’ For those not familiar with the sanitation sector, this subject may not sound particularly exhilarating but, trust us on this, it’s a crucial issue and the book is a game changer. Here’s why.

Tackling a crisis of too much, too little, too polluted

Guangzhe CHEN's picture
The world’s water problems have regularly made the news in 2018. And the scale of the crisis behind the headlines is stark. It is a crisis of too much, too polluted and too little. 

Too much because the devastating impacts of floods, exacerbated by climate change, is hitting poor people first and worst. Too polluted because so much wastewater does not get collected or treated. And too little because across the world today 2.1 billion people lack reliable access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation services, which means that a majority of the global population go without safe containment, emptying/collection, conveyance, treatment and reuse/disposal of their waste. All the while, water scarcity could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP, spur migration and, in the extreme, spark civil conflict.
 
Tackling this crisis is one of the most urgent issues for the global community to address. That’s why a team of experts from the World Bank are attending World Water Week in Stockholm from August 26 to 31 to deepen knowledge, shape debates and amplify action for a water-secure world for all. 

Inclusion in water: breaking down barriers

Soma Ghosh Moulik's picture

In many countries, women walk over six kilometers to collect water. Between 2006 and 2012 in Niger, women traveled an hour, on average, to fetch water. Worldwide, 4.5 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation services and 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water services.
 
Yet even these large numbers and stunning statistics cannot fully reflect the reality for pockets of societies which bear the brunt of inaccessibility. Marginalized groups and low-income communities often lack basic water and sanitation to a staggering degree - a  recent World Bank study found that in Guatemala only 33 percent of the indigenous population have access to sanitation, compared to 77% of the non-indigenous population.
 
So, what does this mean for the water sector? Visibly, it is the case that water remains largely unsafe and inaccessible. Less visibly, it may also be the case that marginalized individuals and groups do not have voice or agency when it comes to managing water. As people are excluded based on facets of their identity - such as ethnicity, social status, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status – their obstacles to safe and accessible water remain unchanged and overlooked. With the previous numbers in mind, these cases make it all too clear that women and other marginalized groups are absent from decision-making roles. They reveal that water and sanitation all too often become conduits of exclusion and disparity.  It is time for the water sector to fully recognize and scrutinize the overlap between inclusion and water.
 
Social inclusion can involve one or a combination of factors that exclude people from markets and services. It is the path to ensuring that marginalized groups are given a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, inclusion is an important component of the work of the World Bank’s Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP). The GWSP aims to deepen social inclusion in water through knowledge generation and curation, country engagements, learning, and stronger partnerships. Moving into its second year, GWSP has supported a number of initiatives and projects to help advance the inclusion agenda:

Global Water Supply and Sanitation Partnership: Scaling up financing outreach at World Water Week

Joel Kolker's picture

The latest news about the finance world usually involves stories of blockchain technology, acquisitions and mergers, and stock market fluctuations. But the world of finance is also central to the Sustainable Development Goals and particularly the objective of universal access in the water and sanitation sector. Financing, whether public or private, is essential to the development, maintenance and improvement of water supply and sanitation (WSS) systems.

That’s why scaling-up finance for water is crucial if we are to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the water sector. The SDGs call upon the world to achieve universal WSS access that is safe, affordable, and available to all by 2030. In addition, the SDGs include targets for increasing efficiency of water use across all sectors, protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems, and improving water quality. And water is a fundamental prerequisite to the achievement of all 17 of the goals – water flows through and connects all the other SDGs.  

However, many people still live in areas where WSS systems are inadequate or even unavailable. Although drinking water is essential to life, across the world today 2.1 billion people lack reliable access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation services. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 42 percent of people lack improved water sources within a 30-minute roundtrip.

The World Bank Group’s Global Water Supply and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) understands that additional finance for water infrastructure is absolutely critical to achieve the SDGs. The WSS sector alone requires six times more financing than governments, the private sector, and donors are currently funding.

30 years of working together to solve Shanghai’s most pressing water problems

Sing Cho's picture

Also available in 中文

Cities are growing at a staggering rate, changing our world beyond recognition. For the first time in history, over half the population -- 55 percent -- lives in urban areas.  By 2050, that number will rise to 68 percent.  This rapid urban growth has given rise to sprawling megacities, many of which are in Asia and Africa.

Perhaps no place epitomizes this trend better than Shanghai. In 1990, the city was still primarily an industrial hub with a population of 13 million. By 2016, the figure had ballooned to 24 million, making Shanghai one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and the financial and economic hub of China. 

No place epitomizes the global trend of urbanization better than Shanghai. 

How to test water quality? Low-cost, low-tech options for microbial testing

Pratibha Mistry's picture
A multi-compartment bag with a colorimetric reagent for E. coli testing
using a most probable number approach.

Photo credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Water quality is central to the challenge of ensuring safe water for all. Here we present the third entry in a three-part blog series on low-cost, low-tech water quality testing. In previous posts, we discussed options for measuring physical and chemical aspects of water quality. In this final post, we explore low-cost, low-tech options for microbial testing.

Money from waste? Revamp your view on sanitation

Daniel Ddiba's picture

As an undergraduate student in Kampala, my head was full of thoughts about how I was going to make a living after my studies. Back then Rich Dad Poor Dad was still a best-seller, and I thought to myself: I can become a billionaire if I sell a billion of something to a billion people. Needless to say, it would have to be something that anyone can afford, like toothpaste or chewing gum.
 
So, I wondered, what does every human need? It dawned on me: everyone needs water, food, and energy, every day. The next question was how I could make valuable goods from all the three as a civil engineer.

 

The shape of water for development

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture

This post originally appeared on High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development website on July 9, 2018.
 

From July 9-18, more than 2,000 representatives from governments, businesses, civil society organizations and UN agencies gather for the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. 


Water touches nearly every aspect of development. It flows through and connects the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by driving economic growth, supporting healthy ecosystems, cultivating food and energy production, and ensuring access to sanitation. We cannot achieve the SDGs without our collective action on water.

Avoiding pitfalls between policy and pipes

Yogita Upadya Mumssen's picture
The “Water Flows” blog series showcases
examples of work funded by Global Water
Security & Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), 
a multi-donor trust fund. The GWSP gets
knowledge flowing to and from
implementation via first-rate research
and analysis.

What motivates poor policy and investment decisions? Why do supposedly good policies not translate into practice? And how can we avoid perpetuating pitfalls between policy and pipes?
 

Our new paper ‘Aligning Institutions and Incentives for Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Services’, produced with the support of the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), examines precisely these issues. Through research, analysis, and case studies, the report posits that genuine, sustainable progress in water supply and sanitation service delivery is complex, iterative, and multi-faceted. Whether it’s expanding access, improving efficiency, or providing better services – all reforms require their own unique blend of policies, institutions and regulations and all take place in the context of their own unique enabling environment.

What does it take to achieve universal and equitable access to water and sanitation in Guatemala?

Marco Antonio Aguero's picture
See the full infographic on key findings of the Guatemala Water Supply, Sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) Poverty Diagnostic.

Water and sanitation data figures in Guatemala show a challenging reality. Nationally, 91 percent of the population has access to improved drinking water, an increase of 14 percent points since the establishment of the MDGs.
 
Despite the improvement in coverage in relative terms, in absolute terms there are still a significant number of Guatemalan households using water from precarious or unimproved sources such as unprotected wells, rivers, or lakes. In addition, water quality is a concern -- from the monitoring of 20% of the water systems in the country, 54% reported to be at high and imminent risk for human health.

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