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Out of sight, out of mind: Understanding the sanitation crisis in global South cities

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Abstract

Global monitoring efforts do not provide a clear picture of the challenge of managing human waste at the city scale. Where cities do not provide universal access to publicly managed sanitation systems, households and communities find their own solutions resulting in a patchwork of approaches to removing human waste from places where people live. In dense urban environments, the absence of a coordinated approach can create serious public health problems. In the absence of comparable city-level data, we analyze primary and secondary data from 15 cities and 15 informal settlements in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. Across these regions, our study finds that 62 percent of human waste is not safely managed. We also find that, while many cities have a proportion of households connected to sewers, none of the 15 cities safely manage human waste at scale. In the absence of sewers, on-site fecal sludge management systems place enormous responsibility on households and private providers, and unaffordable sanitation options result in risky sanitation practices.

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... OSS is considered a relatively inexpensive system for the public sector for the management of excreta and wastewater generated by the households but puts more responsibility on the households for emptying and private sludge collection and transport service provider for its transport, disposal, or end-use (Dodane et al. 2012;Beard et al. 2022). OSS require a proper management scheme termed as fecal sludge management (FSM). ...
... The existing treatment plants were built in the 1960s and the population has increased significantly in that time, yet treatment capacity has been nearly stagnant. The sewer lines were also laid down at the same time and deteriorated to the extent of being dysfunctional (Beard et al. 2022). About 39% of the population has no access to sewerage so the wastewater does not even get contained. ...
Article
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With enhanced focus on global sanitation, access to toilets at the household level is increasing in developing countries although the provision of sewer networks is not expanding at the same pace. This is resulting in the adaptation of on-site sanitation facilities to contain the fecal sludge. The fecal sludge generated by the on-site sanitation facilities requires emptying, treatment, and safe end-use or disposal. In this study, the sanitation situation and need for fecal sludge management was evaluated in major cities of Pakistan including Karachi (provincial capital), Lahore (provincial capital), and Islamabad (national capital). Primary and secondary data were collected from key informant interviews of the stakeholders, national and international reports, research, and review articles. Infographics on wastewater and fecal sludge from origin to disposal were developed using a shit flow diagram tool and enabling environment was evaluated with a modified service delivery assessment tool. The results indicate that sewerage network coverage exists for 60%, 63%, and 50% of the areas in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad respectively. The sewerage network in major cities is old, leaking, and insufficient, thus a limited amount of wastewater reaches the treatment plants. Total wastewater treatment in Karachi and Islamabad is 10% and 9% respectively whereas, in Lahore, there is no infrastructure for the same. The safe sanitation in Lahore (8%) and Islamabad (25%) is coming from on-site sanitation systems with fecal sludge buried safely onsite. National level sanitation programs exist in the country but are limited to reducing open defecation and containments of fecal sludge only. The inclusion of complete fecal sludge management related framework, guidelines, and policies can help achieve the goal of safe sanitation for all.
... At the same time, several institutional arrangements involving stakeholders in the informal water sector, from organized neighborhood water committees to unionized water vendors, suggest that cooperation among multiple institutional actors across scales can influence the politics and practice of informal services delivery (Marston 2014;Wutich, Beresford, and Carvajal 2016). Similarly, in cities where homes are not connected to sewers, the responsibility of managing on-site fecal sludge falls on households and private providers, often promoting risky sanitation practices (Beard et al. 2022). Compared with wealthier households, coping costs are typically higher for lowincome households (Majuru, Suhrcke, and Hunter 2016). ...
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While supporting the livelihoods of most of the developing world’s urban poor, the informal sector also deprives them of basic services and social protection. Rendered vulnerable to socioeconomic threats, people in the urban informal sector have suffered disproportionately during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and face a highly uncertain future. Informal Services in Asian Cities explores informality’s forms and constraints. It describes the pandemic’s effects on the informal sector and how leveraging informal services can enable urban resilience. Drawing on interdisciplinary research, the book illustrates the transformative potential of urban planning and governance that addresses informality. It also details measures that could boost the informal sector’s inclusive and sustainable growth potential.
... and more than 33.4% in terms of built-up footprint (European Commission, 2019). In this context, cities without proper planning experience problems such as unprecedented slum growth (Rasool Rehana et al., 2016) resulting in reduced quality of life (Ray Bhaswati, 2016), deterioration of environmental quality (Imam U.K. Aabshar et al., 2016), sanitation hazards (Beard A. Victoria et al., 2022) etc. ...
Thesis
The main objective of this research is to evaluate if the Random Forest models trained on the basis of spatial metrics derived solely from the WSF3D dataset can be transferred from one city to another. Though with the increased availability of remotely sensed data, new machine learning techniques are constantly emerging for land use mapping, the challenges of collecting validation data and spatial transferability are yet to be addressed. The WSF3D dataset and the technique of "Dissimilarity Index" are used to address these challenges. The main factors allowing model transferability; the association between prediction accuracies and transferability of cities; and the morphological similarities existing between transferable cities are analysed. The "Area of Applicability" is identified, to make assessments for successfully transferring a model to areas where validation data is not available.
... The existing treatment plants were built in the 1960s and the population has increased signi cantly in that time, yet treatment capacity has been nearly stagnant. The sewer lines were also laid down at the same time and deteriorated to the extent of being dysfunctional(Beard, Satterthwaite et al. 2022).About 36% of the population has no access to sewerage so the wastewater does not even get contained. The portion of the contained wastewater (31%) not delivered to a treatment plant together with without access (36%) makes 67%. ...
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With enhanced focus on global sanitation, access to toilets at the household level is increasing in developing countries although the provision of sewer networks is not expanding at the same pace. This is resulting in the adaptation of On-Site Sanitation (OSS) facilities. The fecal sludge generated by the OSS facilities requires emptying, treatment, and safe disposal. In this study, the sanitation situation and need for Fecal Sludge Management (FSM) was evaluated in major cities of Pakistan including Karachi (provincial capital), Lahore (provincial capital), and Islamabad (national capital). Primary and secondary data were collected from key informant interviews (KII) of the stakeholders, national and international reports, research, and review articles. Infographics on wastewater and fecal sludge from origin to disposal were developed using a Shit flow diagram (SFD) tool and enabling environment was evaluated with a modified Service Delivery Assessment (SDA) tool. The results indicate that adequate sewerage network cover exists in Karachi (60%), Lahore (63%), and Islamabad (50%). The sewerage network in major cities is leaking and a limited amount reaches the treatment plants. Total wastewater treatment in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad is 10%, 0%, and 9% respectively. The safe sanitation in Lahore (8%) and Islamabad (25%) is coming from OSS with fecal sludge buried safely onsite. The inclusion of FSM related framework, guidelines, and policies can help achieve the goal of safe sanitation for all.
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Chapter
Without a doubt wastewater management is an essential requisite of all modern city infrastructures. This chapter provides some insights into the collection, treatment, and disposal of urban wastewater systems that are utilised in many towns and cities. Without treatment, wastewater can impair the quality of the natural environment and create public health issues. Urban infrastructure includes a wastewater/sewerage treatment plant. This is a combination of stepwise treatment components that are used to carry out particular treatment processes. Sludge is an unavoidable semisolid by‐product of the sewage treatment process, and its treatment/disposal poses an environmental challenge. The chapter also focuses on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in developing countries. WASH interventions have been shown to be highly effective in reducing the environmental exposure to diseases. There are essential elements of sustainable WASH delivery that must continue to be contextually implemented in order to ensure that all WASH benefits are achieved in developing countries.
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The literature on urban development generally posits that informal settlements offer low cost housing to the urban poor in developing countries. Using data from four informal settlements in Kumasi, Ghana, this paper analyses the costs and quality of water and sanitation infrastructure delivery in relation to the socio-economic conditions of residents. It finds a paradox where residents of deprived informal settlements pay higher fees for the use of low-quality privately-owned outdoor commercial water and sanitation facilities. The study therefore calls for a re-examination of urban upgrading programmes to focus on approaches that consider the financial implications of projects on beneficiaries.
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This paper examines some economic and financial aspects of the sanitation challenge. It first reviews studies on the economic benefits of sanitation and compares it with an analysis of the average economic rate of returns of financed sanitation projects. It then discusses why sanitation projects are usually not financially viable and the importance of financial sustainability. The paper concludes that the real financial challenge of universal access to basic sanitation resides more in the lack of financial sustainability at the sector level than in the total investment required to reach the target.
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This paper describes the work of the Pakistan NGO, Orangi Pilot Project-Research and Training Institute (OPP-RTI), in supporting improved provision for sanitation and other services in Orangi and other informal settlements in Karachi, and in other cities and smaller urban centres in Pakistan. It also describes an OPP-RTI programme to map and survey informal settlements in Karachi, and the youth training programme that supported this, and also the support for OPP-RTI partners in mapping in other urban centres. Improving infrastructure and services, and house upgrading in informal settlements, has been hampered by a lack of maps showing plot boundaries and existing infrastructure. Documenting and mapping these informal settlements has a number of important repercussions for urban policy, planning and infrastructure investment, as it demonstrates people’s involvement and investment in development. As a result, planning agencies and local governments have realized the need to support this work, rather than ignoring or duplicating it, and this has had important implications on how infrastructure is planned, financed and managed. As the paper describes, this includes greatly reducing or removing the need for international loans to finance such investments.
Article
Eutrophication is an increasing problem in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and, as a result, the ecological integrity of surface waters becomes compromised, fish populations become extinct, toxic cyanobacteria blooms are abundant, and oxygen levels reduce. In this review we establish the relationship between eutrophication of fresh inland surface waters in SSA and the release of nutrients in their mega-cities. Monitoring reports indicate that the population of mega-cities in SSA is rapidly increasing, and so is the total amount of wastewater produced. Of the total amounts produced, at present, less than 30% is treated in sewage treatment plants, while the remainder is disposed of via onsite sanitation systems, eventually discharging their wastewater into groundwater. When related to the urban water balance of a number of SSA cities, the total amount of wastewater produced may be as high as 10-50% of the total precipitation entering these urban areas, which is considerable, especially since in most cases, precipitation is the most important, if not only the 'wastewater diluting agent' present. The most important knowledge gaps include: (1) the fate and transport mechanisms of nutrients (N and P) in soils and aquifers, or, conversely, the soil aquifer treatment characteristics of the regoliths, which cover a large part of SSA, (2) the effect of the episodic and largely uncontrolled removal of nutrients stored at urban surfaces by runoff from precipitation on nutrient budgets in adjacent lakes and rivers draining the urban areas, and (3) the hydrology and hydrogeology within the urban area, including surface water and groundwater flow patterns, transport velocities, dynamics of nutrient transport, and the presence of recharge and discharge areas. In order to make a start with managing this urban population-related eutrophication, many actions are required. As a first step, we suggest to start systematically researching the key areas identified above.
Sanitation for unserved populations: technologies, implementation challenges, and opportunities
  • Nelson
NSDFU (National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda), SDI (Slum Dwellers International), n.d. Kampala Profiles, Kawempe Division
  • Actogether Uganda
Up-Scaling Basic Sanitation for the Urban Poor (UBSUP) in Kenya
  • N Susana