Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

  • muench
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Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

I wanted to share with you something that I felt was missing at the recent FSM3 conference and indeed from the whole discourse on faecal sludge management.

And that's the local government involvement, particularly when it comes to the people living in informal settlements. OK, one could argue this doesn't just apply to sanitation but is a wider problem regarding insecure tenure issues, corruption, neglect, violence etc. Are we therefore putting the cart before the horse if we are trying to sort out sanitation before sorting out local government issues? Should we work much more closely with organisations working on improving governance, decentralisation etc.?

I had a little twitter conversation with Sasha from SOIL Haiti on this which I found interesting, see below. The screenshot doesn't come out so clearly but this is what Sasha wrote:

SOIL ‏@SOILHaiti 22. Jan.
" @SOILHaiti and @Sanergy both work closely with local governments, though they aren't yet financially or operationally involved."

Elisabeth von Muench ‏@EvMuench 22. Jan.
"I didn't really get this from the presentations. Perhaps LG accept what you do, but that is not active involvement?"

SOIL ‏@SOILHaiti
"what sort of involvement would you envision?"

Elisabeth von Muench ‏@EvMuench 22. Jan.
"They should gear up to provide the sanitation service themselves, isn't it their job & responsibility? "

Elisabeth von Muench ‏@EvMuench 22. Jan.
"Or they should at least consider a subsidy scheme for sanitation in low-income urban areas..."

SOIL ‏@SOILHaiti 22. Jan.
"in a perfect world yrs, but unreliable tax base and political instability = sustainability risk."



I do agree with organisations like SOIL and Sanergy (the hyperlinks take you to existing threads about their work on the forum) that we cannot wait for local government to provide sanitation solutions and leave the people languish in their own waste.

However, what I am wondering: now that SOIL and Sanergy have proven that it is possible to provide sustainable sanitation to these people at low cost (with a small subsidy), would now be a good time to try and convince local government to step in? Not necessarily to provide the service themselves (this would probably not work very well) but to regulate it in some form and to provide a subsidy for it? I think it will be next to impossible to provide sanitation to anyone without a subsidy (this includes sewer systems that are usually cross-financed via water supply sales), therefore why would anyone expect that sanitation for low-income informal settlements should be an exception from this rule? It is an investment into a public good, public health.

Does anyone have any examples where local government has taken this task on, perhaps after NGOs have proven it to be possible?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • christoph
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Hi Elisabeth,
I agree with you that the involvement of the local utility is most crucial for roll out.

local government has taken this task on

That is what we worked on in Peru with GIZ. We proved that the service is possible to an affordable price ( see here ) in the video in 15:13 the model is explained and 15:40 shows the calculated numbers. The mentioned 8 soles /month and family are 2,7 U$/month,family as a recollection fee - far cheaper than the regular wastewater fee. The utility (was/is) going to implement, we have to see how are things changed after election now in December - that is always a problem especially as the project ended. Beforehand we proved with examples all over the country that in general it is an applicable model of sanitation.
I do not agree with your view

this includes sewer systems that are usually cross-financed via water supply sales

.
That is not my experience. My experience is, that sewers are financed in developing countries or by the state or by donors - never with tariffs and even less cross financing to water tariff. Often, at least in Peru, the wastewater tariff is used to cross finance water expenditures.

My logic would be - use the same amount you would use for sewer and WWTP implementation to finance the infrastructure at the users home - but I know that is a severe problem for public money.

Best regards

Christoph
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Ah, but Elisabeth, there's no money in it for local officials to provide the services as you suggest, at least comparable to a) continuing to do nothing or b) selling the soul of your community or country to the IMF or World Bank in order to gain access to the vast amounts available for big expensive centralized systems.

Doesn't it all really boil down to impoverished people disenfranchised from the seats of power having to either accept the crumbs they are given or rise up to demand better? In other words, until the people in the communities that you are describing demand more from the people that are supposed look out for their interests, all there will be are scattered small, privately funded projects and programs like those you have cited (at least until the local people repair their society).

That said, governments need to be held accountable but the ones to do that are the local people, not well intentioned outsiders. However, working together can and does result in remarkable successes. But isn't it rare (or even prohibited by most funding sources?) for an NGO or not-for-profit organization to focus on creating the conditions wherein regular people can demand better conditions? It seems like most outside groups are focused on fixing a problem but not necessarily the root of the problem. But wouldn't it be great if that could change, as I think you are suggesting?

Of course, there are all kinds of impediments to this taking place, not the least of which are that outsiders are typically in a country at the pleasure of the respective government. Make too much noise and your visa or tourist card is revoked and out you go, never to return. Isn't this the "development Catch-22": educate and organize the masses properly and risk ending up deported, or worse, disappeared? Its this dilemma (but more so the power that exists in subverting it) that makes me far more inspired by groups or individuals that take great pains to recognize and develop the capacity of local people (rather than flying in "experts") because its in this work that future success can be assured.

Kai Mikkel Førlie

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  • Kiku
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Interesting thoughts. Decentralized governments with limited local revenue are accountable to central governments (where transfers come from), and not locals - poor or non-poor. The average mayor usually has their eye on the next election, and toilets seldom get folks re-elected. The "do-nothing" scenario is what many local leaders settle for.

Ugandan local governments are charged with excreta management, but few if any urban areas have the minimal infrastructure in place, say disposal facilities. Much as there is sufficient knowledge on say, co-composting, hardly any mayors look beyond solid waste management, let alone do basics such as enforce sanitation by-laws. (To a large extent - fear of disenfranchising the 'voters'.) The public good is ultimately sacrificed at the altar of winning the next election.

It is also true that vocal civic organizations would ultimately be accused of inciting the masses, and licenses withdrawn forthwith.

Fredrick

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  • ggalli
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Great topic Elisabeth, thank you for this!!!
For me this issue is of crucial importance. Many organisations, start-ups and development agencies are currently trying to show that sanitation services can be provided through a business model. However, to make it work as fast as possible, local government is often by-passed. Even if it is involved, the initial process was far too reliable on external inputs (expertise, subsidies etc.), making it impossible to replicate and scale up.

In fact, this issue was at the core of what I felt was missing at the latest FSM3 conference. Everybody is presenting a tool, technology etc., but few are linking it to an overall vision or a process of change. When talking to some of the seasoned engineers running large -scale projects, their frustrations are not about lack of technologies but lack of political commitment and local capacities (both at the operating level as within the municipalities).

I agree with Elisabeth when she says we shouldn't put the cart before the horse. But I also think that we can't be naive and expect problems to resolve themselves. I think that sanitation can be an interesting 'window' to change some structural problems, but then we must approach it as much more than a techno-managerial fix. NGOs, academics, the press, etc. all can play a role in mobilising attention for this cause. And indeed, this may be 'political nuisance' at times, it will be important to know how to play this in a diplomatic and effective way.

At the same time we must also accept that sanitation is (often) not the main concern of the local population. This makes it very difficult to demand local governments to take responsibility in this field. The sanitation sector should therefore start opening up and link up with broader themes, for example environmental or health movements. As of now we are far too internally occupied with our little discussions.

Giacomo Galli
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  • christoph
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Maybe some of the projects listed (here) already advanced with local governments? Could the people comment their experiences?.

Christoph
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  • warmin
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Dear Elisabeth,
Is it really the job of local government to carry out the function of providing sanitation services? Will they ever be professional enough to do so and to raise enough money for investments? Has the transfer of water supply from local government departments to commercial utilities under regulation not demonstrated that administration (on national and local level alike) are not the best place to offer such services?
With best regards
Roland
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Dear Roland,

Thanks for picking up on this thread. It seems to actually have a similar topic to the thematic discussion that IRC is running here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/220-th...ge-around-sanitation (so perhaps we should also put our thoughts there).

I agree in principle with what you wrote. When I said in the thread above "where is the local government?", I wasn't really distinguishing between the municipality and the commercial utility. For me they both belong to the local government (doesn't the local government normally own the commercial utility and sets its working framework by carefully regulating it?). Or would you say it is wrong to put them in the same boat and the commercial utility should rather be seen as something completely separate from the local government?

I am aware of those cases in some cities where the commercial utility was totally outsourced and privatized, like with Veolia Water or with some Waste Collection services (often companies from France, it seems). I suppose in that case, the organizational separation is very clear. (mind you this has its own controversies assoicated with it, like we discussed here on the forum:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/142-go...s-bad-for-the-sector )

Coming back to the commercial utilities in sub-Saharan Africa, you have mentioned here the shining example of ONEA in Burkina Faso:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/142-go...g-intervention-areas

However, I was missing to see some good reports or presentations about their case - is there something available on someone's website that you could point us towards? Or is the problem that it's only available in French?

Apart from Burkina Faso and perhaps Senegal (ONAS), are you aware of other good examples are there for commercial utilities getting serious about non-sewer based sanitation systems serving the urban poor (if sewers are not an option), or in peri-urban or rural situations? (Christoph had started a list which he linked to in the post just above yours, although those are more just "projects", often NGO-led like with SOIL in Haiti)

I was under the impression that the commercial utilities usually only make a profit out of selling piped water and, perhaps, sewer services. But as soon as you go beyond piped systems in sanitation, then they have a problem and need to cross-subsidize it from their water business which speaks against being "commercial" about it all?

And how about solid waste management? Do ONEA and ONAS also deal with solid waste? It seems to me that solid waste management is often left with the municipality (and not with the commercialised utility) as it's harder to make it profitable compared to selling water.

If you, or anyone else has an interest in solid waste management, we could also start a new thread about this aspect here:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/208-solid-waste-management

Kind regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Dear Elisabeth,
Your questions are key when thinking reform in the water and sanitation sector.
Why do we need to distinguish between administration (local or central government) and utilities?

Because both do not have the same level of capacities in different areas and the principle should be: Each one does what he can do best – municipality to issue by-laws, utility (BoD and management) to provide services and ensure asset development. Governments are best placed to develop policies, oversee the sector and to account for sector development but must not interfere in regulation and service provision. An utility does not belong to a ministry or other administration in the sense of owning the assets. The assets are public assets held on behalf of the public by some institutions and in the case of public utilities municipalities can be the owner but should appoint a BoD according to guidelines and hold them accountable once a year in a general assemble. The rest are for professionals of water and sanitation recruited form the labour market and not for civil-servant / public administrator!

That is why they are not the same and there must be a clear separation of public administration and professional service provision. Another reason for the need of a clear separation is to keep politics out of service provision which is the main problem why water and sanitation development is not effective. Such a separation does not mean privatisation! Therefore there is no controversy linked to a clear separation between utility and public administration (regardless of the mode of delivery).

In addition, different institutional set-ups lead to different links. For instance, a national utility like ONEA is owned by some ministries or like in the case of Kenya the utilities are now owned by counties. Therefore it is not always local government / municipalities. Public administration are also not necessarily the best place to regulate utilities although it can be accepted if regulatory instruments are in place which set limits to the owner of the utility.

Concerning ONEA, there is a recent document from French scholars (I believe) “De la faillite à l’excellence HISTOIRE EXTRAORDINAIRE D’UNE TRANSFORMATION” describing the outstanding success of the development of ONEA. This should also be available in English I have heard. I have ask Michel from GIZ in Burkina to advise ONEA to put these documents on the ONEA website. I will follow up on it and let you know. I cannot say how much of sanitation is covered in this document as I have not received a copy.

Concerning commercial utilities being involved in onsite sanitation, I propose that you consult the website of WSTF in Kenya ( www.waterfund.go.ke/ ) and if further details are needed Doreen can help.

Utilities can be considered commercial when they cover costs regardless if cross-subsidisation between products is taking place. There is also cross-subsidisation in water tariffs between consumer groups carried out by commercial utilities. If the regulator allows for a higher tariff because the utility takes on “loss making” products, tariffs for some consumer groups, decentralised sludge treatment for instance, it still remains being a commercial viable utility. The bottom line is: all cost (water, sewer, onsite sanitation) are covered.

When an utility in Sub-Sahel Africa succeeds to be viable with a good level of service provision over a long time in water, then it can be regarded as a bit outstanding. If it is the same with sewerage services, then it is very good. Adding now onsite sanitation (in the few cases which are now emerging) then it can be considered as exceptional outstanding. So why should we push for adding solid waste, rural water and sanitation, etc. on top of that? Is it not better that they concentrate on water and effluent / human waste development instead of getting over burdened with other functions? Are in the industrialised world water companies dealing generally with solid waste?

Best regards
Roland
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  • muench
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Dear Roland,

I read your post with great interest, thank you for sharing your knowledge and viewpoints here! I haven't replied earlier partly because I was pre-occupied with other tasks but partly also because I wanted to give other people the room and time to join into our conversation. Surely it is a topic that interests not just the two of us but others well, so please everyone: do provide your thoughts as well.


(1)

About the first point which relates to distinguising between the political administration and the commercial utilities:

You have described well the different roles and setups for the two. I understand that. However, I still think they should belong together like two pieces of a puzzle. After all, you cannot have a commercial utility without a local government, can you? I am also trying to compare it with the situation in Germany or the Netherlands. They have formed sometimes these "water boards" or "Abwasserzweckverbände" - some institutions that operate like commercial entities but which are usually either owned by or have to follow the regulations of the local council or local authority. We also have this term of "städtische Wasserwerke" in Germany which translates to "city-owned water works". - Do you think some of the models we have for water/wastewater in Germany are transferable to countries like Kenya or is the setup too different?


(2)

It will be good to see more from ONEA in Burkina Faso published in more easily accessible formats (e.g. to be added to the SuSanA library) if it's such a good example. Wondering why not more has been published about it yet.


(3)

Yes, I am of course aware of the great UBSUP project and the wonderful work that Doreen (and the whole team) is doing, also sharing about it here on the forum which is great ( forum.susana.org/forum/categories/97-ena...p-wstf-and-giz-kenya ).

However, I think the proof is still in the pudding how this will pan out in the longer term. In addition, it received a major injection of funds from an external donor (BMGF) so therefore I am not yet totally convinced that it would be easily replicable elsewhere without that external donor funding. Are you confident that it could be replicated and that it will work even without external donor funding?

(4)
About sanitation and solid waste and what the commercial utilities can take on:
You said:

When a utility in Sub-Sahel Africa succeeds to be viable with a good level of service provision over a long time in water, then it can be regarded as a bit outstanding. If it is the same with sewerage services, then it is very good. Adding now onsite sanitation (in the few cases which are now emerging) then it can be considered as exceptional outstanding. So why should we push for adding solid waste, rural water and sanitation, etc. on top of that? Is it not better that they concentrate on water and effluent / human waste development instead of getting over burdened with other functions? Are in the industrialised world water companies dealing generally with solid waste?


That's exactly the sort of hierarchy that I have a problem with. It basically means that water supply is taken care of. Perhaps also sewerage for those who can afford it. But onsite sanitation is mostly left to "others" to take care of (unless one is fortunate to have donor funding...). And solid waste if left to even "others" to take care of - and is usually not taken care of at all...

With your model of commercial utility, how should onsite sanitation then be taken care of - by someone other than the utility - if there is no external donor funding? And how should solid waste be taken care of? Is this something the municipality must sort out itself because it is too foreign/difficult to a utility to deal with?

Regarding how it's done in industrialised countries:
I think solid waste services are usually contracted out by the German local councils and the contracts re-negotiated on a yearly basis. This also includes waste paper collection which can be quite a profitable business (nevertheless the households have to pay a collection fee).

So solid waste management contracts are negotiated between the local government and a private company - I think that's rather common in Germany (but I am not 100% sure). I guess it is also easier to find such private companies for solid waste because a) they don't need to worry about laying any pipes; they just need trucks and treatment centres and b) because in Germany there is a market for some of the solid waste, like paper and card board. The other waste streams which are collected separately in Germany (glass, tins, green waste for composting, clothes, plastic packaging, special waste) probably are not so profitable (less of a market for the recycled product than for recycled paper).

I don't know the solid waste management industry in Germany well but I suspect a secret to making it work well is to have the separate collection of waste streams, where the German population is usually remarkably willing to cooperate (and we sometimes have long debates about which waste product should go into which bin!). - But that's perhaps a discussion to be had in this category: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/208-solid-waste-management

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Dear Elisabeth,

Thank you for your replay and hoping that more colleagues will read our exchange.

1. Utility and municipality must be one and municipality must regulate the utility?
I have explained that in some countries it is not the municipality which has ownership of the utility. It can also be one or several ministries or a county. In any case, empirical evidence over more than 3 decades in all condiments habituated by humans has shown that a utility can only be performing if it is at arm’s length away from civil service structure. Whoever neglect this evidence will ask for inefficiencies in the water and sanitation sector which punishes at first the poor. In addition, if municipalities regulate the utility than there will be over hundred regulatory regimes in one country which cannot be in the interest of the people to be served and in the interest of the national state which is accountable (not the municipality) for progressing toward human rights to water and sanitation. Please look beyond Germany for instance to the UK, Netherlands, France, and then of course to our partner countries where access to water and sanitation is progressing. There, the lessons learned have been incorporated in sector reforms which do not consider utility and civil service (on local level) operated by elected politicians as one. This does not mean that they have not to cooperate e.g. in town planning, mobilization of community to identify the places public outlet should be placed, making available public ground for water kiosk and public toilets, etc. Looking for instance at GIZ, owned by ministries in Germany, does that mean that they are one? The principle to follow: Separate professional service provision from civil service structure which is headed by elected politicians but ensure close collaboration.

2. ONEA case not being made public? I have been explaining, there are some publications now available which I will receive soon and I will scan the documents for you. But we will have to obtain permission to make it public over the net. Nevertheless, I will send other ONEA internal documents to your mail box in the meantime.

3. Any up-scaling of sanitation without external financing and without utilities? All bigger sanitation activities are supported in one or another way by external funding except for ONEA in the 90th which financed its sanitation activity through a levy on the water bills. Today UBSUP has already reached a longer lifespan than most of the sanitation projects I have seen. The sanitation activities at ONEA have started in 1991 and are still up-scaled today. Still having doubts about long term? In addition, the sector frameworks (policy, legal, institutional) in Burkina and Kenya are so different that we can conclude that it is very likely that up-scaling sanitation through utilities can be achieved in most of the countries where access is insufficient and urbanization is galloping. In any case it is a more promising option than small scale sanitation projects. Unfortunately, it is hard work and demand a multi-level approach which NGOs, financial cooperation and municipalities cannot do themselves.

4. At first water, than sewerage and then onsite sanitation – discriminating the poor? As the water and sanitation sector in the developing world developed in stages it will do the same in the partner countries. One of the biggest challenges was the financial sustainability and the autonomy of the service providers. Because politician nominated staff of the provider (nepotism) and decided on what they called “social tariffs” which could not cover the average costs (vote catching) the poor were left out. Many countries have understood the problem that denying autonomy for utilities and that a so called “social tariff” which is not covering average costs is un-social. Therefore, first priority: separate utilities from civil service, secondly: allow for cost coverage (with a socially oriented tariff structure) and then when the economic sustainability is achieved start serving the poor more aggressively if possible with water and sanitation at the same time. I have put the order of water, sewerage, onsite sanitation in my last mail as a description of the reality and not of my conviction!

5. Commercial utilities is not “my model” but a reality in the way forward in many countries in the world today and I believe it is the best way forward if the principles are adhered to as empirical evidence documents. Furthermore, ONEA is a good example that onsite sanitation can largely be financed by cross subsidization between water and sanitation. Who else can do it without external funding? I do not know and no one has convincingly with facts explained it to me?

6. As you correctly mentioned, solid waste management in the industrialized world is also contracted out (either to private companies or utilities). Why should service provision for solid waste function according to other principles than the outsourced public services for water and sanitation? Nevertheless, for water and sanitation the outsourcing to utilities is preferred than to private companies for reasons you have already mentioned. But both need to function like the private sector under regulation and can definitely not be one with civil servant administration / municipalities, unless from the perspective of the song “we are the world” (in equality) all together.

Best regards
Roland
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  • warmin
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Dear All,
complementing my last posting from yesterday I attach two documents of ONEA (water and sanitation utility) which indicate the involvement and results of ONEA in sanitation (mainly in onsite sanitation)
Best regards
Roland

In French from 2014:

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In English from 1996 with the title "AN OVERVIEW AND PERSPECTIVE ON PROGRESS MADE IN ONEA'S REORGANIZATION EFFORTS"

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