Newsletter and Technical Publications
<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
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
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.