Citywide Sanitation Planning - Are we doing the right thing? Critical questioning for city sanitation planning, by ISF-UTS & SNV (2016)

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Citywide Sanitation Planning

Citywide Sanitation Planning
A sanitation document, available in Susana library: ISF-UTS & SNV (2016) ‘Are we doing the right thing? Critical questioning for city sanitation planning’. Prepared by Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, makes an interesting reading.

The authors say that the citywide sanitation planning can enable coordinated improvements in efforts to achieve universal access to sustainable sanitation services in urban contexts in developing countries. But, the authors say that their observation is that city sanitation planning is not always effective and does not always lead to (in part or in full) sustainable and equitable outcomes. The reason given is: A key factor to recognize is that in the majority of developing countries, demand for sanitation services by both citizens and politicians is low, and this strongly affects the potential for plans to be turned into reality.

The authors are right in saying that in many developing countries, establishing and sustaining citywide sanitation services is a significant task. It requires a combination of well-functioning technologies, sustained demand, effective management and sustainable financing, within a broader enabling regulatory and policy environment. It also requires political will, a key factor found to be missing in the sanitation sector. City sanitation planning can play a role in addressing many of these areas, and has the potential to provide vision and strategic direction to guide investment as cities turn to addressing the challenges they face.

While the authors have highlighted valid points which deserve appreciations, a critical gap noticed is that in developing countries, due to low priority given to sanitation, aided by poor technical knowledge, coordinated and collaborated planning involving all stakeholders is simply not possible. For example, in Karachi, Pakistan, there is no citywide planning. It is all adhoc, “hit and go” planning. That is why we have major sanitation problems, and they will remain so for decades.

A major change in mindset is required, coupled with a sense of responsibility, integrity, and a whole lot of knowledge management.

The document gives definition of sanitation, which is interesting to read. It says:

The definition of ‘sanitation’, and hence what comprises city sanitation planning, varies from country to country. Recently countries such as Indonesia, India and Nepal have included solid waste and stormwater management within the definition of ‘sanitation’.

In this learning paper, unless otherwise stated, the focus is narrower, and is limited to the management of human excreta such that faecal pathogens do not come into contact with people, animals, insects, crops or water sources, and environmental objectives are also met. Ensuring protection of public health and environmental outcomes requires attention to the entire sanitation service chain from source to final destination, and inclusion of both solid and liquid streams.


It is interesting to note that Indonesia, India and Nepal have included solid waste and stormwater management within the definition of sanitation. Solid waste management is quite a distinctively separate field and, in case of Karachi, if stormwater is to be included in sanitation, then the term “drainage” is used.

F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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