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United Nations Environment Programme
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Newsletter and Technical Publications
<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>

8.4 Social and institutional factors

Social and institutional factors are most important in the delivery of any service including wastewater and stormwater services. These factors include the processes adopted by a community, region or country to plan, finance and implement the provision of sanitation services. Each community has developed their processes, and these may have been developed over a long period. The importance of involving the community in decision making to introduce wastewater and stormwater management has been reiterated as being important to ensure long term sustainability of the system.

Difficulty can be encountered with new communities developing in the fringes of large cities, where there may not have been the tradition of community decision making. The involvement of a community-based or non-government organisation may assist. Financing and cost recovery are important considerations for these communities, which generally are resource poor.

The management of ablution facilities illustrates the importance of ownership or sense of ownership. A private ablution facility is generally better maintained than a communal ablution facility. Hygiene maintenance of a private facility is usually the responsibility of a person in the household. This is usually the housewife, who cleans the facility or arranges its regular cleaning and also ensures that members of the household play their part. A communal hygiene facility can suffer from a lack of unclear responsibility for cleaning the facility or from abuse by irresponsible members of the community.

Requiring payment for use of a communal or public ablution facility, with an attendant for collection of payment and responsible for cleaning, appears to be a good model (Sulabh, India).

Sulabh International Social Service Organisation

Salabh Shauchalaya Complex is a system of operating and maintaining community toilets with bathing, laundry and urinal facilities with attendantís service round the clock. It is a pay-and-use system with peopleís participation without any burden on public exchequer or local authorities. Sulabh complexes have been welcomed both by the people and the authorities due to their cleanliness and good management.

These complexes have electricity and 24 hours water supply and soap powder is supplied free to users for washing hands. The complexes have separate enclosures for men and women. The users are charged nominal sum for using Shauchalayas and baths.

(www.sulabhinternational.org)

There is an emerging trend for governments to privatise provision of wastewater and stormwater services. The private sector has developed considerable expertise in providing wastewater and stormwater services. These services range from developing master plans, community consultation, design, construction, operation & maintenance of collection, treatment and disposal facilities, to training of personnel. It is not clear whether the private sector achieves greater management efficiency when compared to a well operated government agency. The latter may not, however, operate in a particular locality, and capacity building within the government sector is required. Government's responsibility remains in providing policy direction, providing overall planning framework, and ensuring that public health and environmental objectives are achieved. Governments should use the private sector expertise to supplement specialist waste disposal areas while still keeping control. Hygiene promotion should remain a high priority for governments, irrespective of public or private provision of services.

Communities with low incomes/resources require special attention with respect to achieving the wider public health and environmental objectives. The case of providing funding for wastewater and stormwater services is compelling from the overall public health and environmental benefits outside these communities.

 

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