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<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>

3. Cross-cutting issues

From examining how sanitation problems develop in a community (Figure 1.1 to 1.6) it becomes obvious that they are related to population density relative to the ability of the environment to cope with the wastes generated, and the ability of the community to respond to the problems that arise. Thus besides the public health and environmental aspects that we have discussed, there are the social and institutional dimensions that have to be taken into account. These refer to the way communities organise themselves to manage their common affairs, such as arranging collection of household solid wastes, laying of sewer pipes, and financing these activities. Each community has generally developed means of carrying out these tasks, which may be unique to a particular community or communities in a region. The institutional arrangements in a community evolve with time to meet changes in culture and technology, and may or may not cope with external changes. One of the latter is rapid urbanisation, and it is generally in such a situation of rapid population growth that severe sanitation problems occur.

The issues associated with how communities manage their common endeavour, which in our case is managing wastewater and stormwater, are termed 'cross-cutting' issues. These issues are elaborated further and addressed in a complementary publication by UNEP GPA 'Recommendations for decision making on municipal wastewater' as well as the United Nations Development Programme/World Bank (UNDP/WB) publication'Resource Guide in Urban Environmental Sanitation' published concurrently as the present UNEP-IETC Source Book. Readers should refer to the Resource Guide, which cover the three areas of wastewater, stormwater, and urban solid wastes, for a more detailed discussion of the issues and suggested strategy to address these issues.

The major issues are depicted in Figure 1.8.

Figure 1.8: Major cross cutting issues of planning, community participation and finance

Settlement planning

Planning appears to be a major and key issue for a community to address. Ideally settlements should be planned ahead of their occupation. Areas should be set aside for treatment and disposal of solid wastes which cannot be recycled or reused. Easement should be provided in the plan if wastewater is to be collected through a sewerage system, or if on-site treatment is chosen, lot sizes should be able to adequately accommodate the treatment system. Planning should also take into account the natural drainage of the landscape to enable stormwater run-off to flow freely by gravity and minimise flooding. Water reuse should also be carefully planned. Generally a sufficient area must be set aside for water reuse, which can take the form of water for agriculture, aquaculture, tree plantation or for irrigation of public parks and gardens.

New approaches to planning to achieve long-term resource sustainability for wastewater and stormwater management should be considered in a planning process. Stormwater infiltration at source to reduce heavy downstream run-off is an example. Water conservation measures can reduce wastewater volume, and dry sanitation where appropriate merits consideration.

In a rapid urbanisation process and with illegal settlements occurring, the situation is far from ideal. Decisions have to be made based on the existing far-from-ideal situation. In most cases no action is taken until the legal status of the land occupation is clarified, and this can take quite some time. In the meantime temporary measures need to be taken to provide sanitation services to prevent disease outbreak and downstream environmental problems. In the first instance piped water may be provided from standpipes. If no corresponding measure is taken to provide for wastewater collection, then invariably poor sanitation conditions result. This illustrates an important point in planning and integrated waste management that when water is provided, wastewater disposal should be considered at the same time, because provision of water means wastewater is simultaneously generated. Disposal of the wastewater into stormwater drains is clearly not satisfactory as mentioned earlier. The problems arising from the provision of water may be negated by the problems caused by the wastewater.

Community participation and hygiene promotion

Much has been said about the need to involve the whole community in provision of sanitation services to ensure that any service that is provided is what the community wants. This will help ensure the viability of the service and its long term sustainability. The need to involve women has been emphasised, because women are generally responsible for the day to day management of wastes at the household level. How far community participation can be implemented depends on the social, cultural and political practices within the community.

The decisions taken by a community are influenced by its knowledge base. One aspect that may be lacking is the awareness of the relationship between illnesses and lack of hygiene and sanitation. This may be reflected in the low priority given to provision of sanitation services. Promotion of hygiene is therefore an important issue that has to be addressed. The promotion materials should include not only the relationship between health and sanitation services, but also the correct choice of sanitation hardware, and in its maintenance and operation. It has been argued that sound hygiene practices, even with inadequate sanitation provision can improve health outcome. It is, however, preferable to have sound hygiene practices go hand in hand with environmentally sound sanitation hardware.

Financing of sanitation services and cost recovery

Sanitation services require investment and continuing costs of operation and maintenance. The level of investment is dependent on the technology that is chosen. The technology also determines the costs associated with its operation and maintenance. A community may be able to provide in-kind contribution such as labour towards the construction of a wastewater collection system. With a simple on-site wastewater system the community may be able to do most of its construction. Knowledge of technology options is therefore essential to a community to decide which one to choose, because in the end they have to pay for both the investment and operating costs if the service is to be sustainable in the long term. Technology options are presented in Section 2.


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