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

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

Dear Roland/Elisabeth,

It is/was a pleasure to read your thoughts...and here are my two cents:

1. Human waste and/or solid waste management in the hands of sub-national governments require strong political leadership, the kind that looks beyond 5 years in office. That way, software measures such as SanMark can go in tandem with enforcement of minimal sanitation/hygiene measures. What we see in most towns in Uganda are "Mayors" that can barely mobilize communities to clean their streets - for fear of antagonizing voters. It is the absurd reality.

2. Where there is progress wrt SWM and FSM, donors have largely driven that process. Even then, inadequate sector frameworks put long-term sustainability at risk. Ministry of Education, for example, promotes line-able pits yet there's almost zero resources allocated to maintenance (pit emptying). That would imply that even if there was a sludge treatment/disposal facility in the vicinity, the schools (or health facilities) would struggle with financing FS collection and transport.

3. What we call small towns are in most cases large villages. I am working on a project or two that seek to address FSM challenges in urban settings. Over 95% of the on-site sanitation facilities are not lined, and a multi-pronged approach is being pursued, i.e. put in place FS disposal facilities, while promoting drain-able pits. In the absence of household subsidies, the success of such initiatives would require improvement in household incomes, something beyond the sector's control.

4. Reuse-orientated approaches have not been without challenges. Whether it is solid or human waste by-products, the uptake is not as progressive as practitioners would wish. The average urban dweller's garden provides enough for their subsistence livelihood - without having to "struggle" with soil conditioner.

5. By and large, the developing world is still decades away from large-scale adoption of what seems obvious in waste management. A couple of initiatives such as biogas recovery, composting, etc. can best be described as "work in progress." A combination of socio-economic and cultural barriers are bound to frustrate the idealist sanitation practitioner. Not to forget the fact that roads bring in more votes than waste management.



PS. Proceeds from this year's MTN-sponsored Kampala Marathon will go towards building biogas-generating sanitation facilities for select public schools in Kampala. The initiative will build on a pilot that involved dragging City Authority officials to Nairobi's Kibera Slum to believe by seeing (GIZ Kenya's Roland and Doreen were instrumental in coordinating the visit).

Fredrick Tumusiime, MSc
Independent Consultant
Water and Sanitation

Skype: tufre80
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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Where is the local government involvement in faecal sludge management and sanitation for the urban poor?

Here (Sindh, Pakistan), the local government is not involved in FSM, or for that matter, the sanitation, in informal areas. Local government works in cities and towns only.

F H Mughal

F H Mughal (Mr.)
Karachi, Pakistan
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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 Fredrick,

you describe very well the limits local government structures have. Therefore, I wonder why so many NGOs and donors try to make with their support to the municipality the impossible possible and not design a system which adapts to these limits? All stakeholders have their limits and it is lost time and money to try to change such systemic limits.

It is also interesting to see that after Paris, Accra and Busan agendas the sector still faces donor and NGOs driven long term processes. With the philosophy of decentralization / devolution often in the heads of stakeholders, local and national links are erased. But can sector development take place without a national concept and standards? And an implementation mechanism which leaves the national level out? Can we demand on one side ownership by local and national structures / decision makers and then replace one of them in action?

How long do we still have to work in order to make sector "experts" understand that there must be a separation line between the development of urban and rural water and sanitation development? The realities are different in the two areas because population density creates such different realities.

It seems that there are too many players in the sector coming from different fields (Health, Sociology, Engineering, Psychology, political science, etc., etc.) who often only see a part of the cave and not the horizon, but have a decisive word to say in the discourse.

With best regards

The following user(s) like this post: hajo
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  • hajo
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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 your constructive contribution, some of which I agree, others disagree.

Yes, stakeholders have their limits and ‘it is lost time and money to try to change such systematic limits’. In Tanzania, the MoW and the utilities refuse to get involved in ‘dry’ on-site sanitation. They consider themselves responsible only for sewers and ‘maybe’ for emptying septic tanks.

While the Public Health Act assigns responsibilities for emptying on-site sanitation to LGAs (municipalities). And in the case of Moshi, the MMC accepts that they are responsible for it although they don’t do anything due to the lack of funds and resources.

And making a municipality responsible for an on-site service chain (emptying pit latrines) does not mean that they have to do it physically but they just have to contract someone and ensure he does the job.

Can sector development take place without a national concept and standards? Sometimes development has to be driven from the local level. It takes too much time that the national level agrees and develops concepts. Let the local level also implement something that works and the national level then develop concepts on the basis of this proven sample for up-scaling nationwide.

I fully agree with you that urban and rural sanitation require quite different approaches!!!

And I also agree with you that too often a stakeholder with a ‘narrow’ perspective of a sector can influence relevant decisions without having a full picture of the sector. But that is why in Tanzania four (4) ministries are ‘in charge’ of sanitation and with everybody having a say in the sector, the sector also does not move forward.

What can be the solution? I thought to split up the sanitation sector with the following responsible stakeholders:

1 sanitation at schools: Ministry of Education
2 sanitation at health facilities as well as hygiene awareness: Ministry of Health
3 rural/urban household on-site sanitation, solid waste, surface run-off: LGAs
4 wet sanitation (sewer, septic tanks): utilities

This split could possibly encourage the relevant stakeholders to concentrate on their tasks, receive funds for projects and not be distracted by numerous meetings with other stakeholders discussing sanitation matters which do not ‘affect ‘ them.

Ciao Hajo

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Albert Einstein
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of a genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
E.F. Schumacher
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. :-)
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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 Hajo,
Thanks for your thoughts.

I wonder why the water and sewerage companies in Tanzania have been renamed water and sanitation authorities and still refuse to get involved in the management of sludge (never mind form the source). Does this not show how difficult it is to design and implement sector reforms? Reforms can of course start from the bottom but cannot be successful without going national at some point.

In addition, the discourse on water and sanitation is very much concentrating on impact of insufficient access and less on solution. Making this difference is crucial. The discussion on the impact of water and sanitation concentrates mainly on health. But there are many other negative impacts such as poverty, family life, etc. which are at least as important as health for development. They seems to drown in the discussion on water, sanitation and health.

On the other hand, looking at the sector development in the industrialised world, the approach was to solve the water and sanitation challenge by centralised solutions, in the urban setting first (mainly centralised technical solutions but also centralised management systems with decentralised technical solutions at the different stages of development). This approach for solving the challenge is generating very different solutions which are offered by the discourse lead by the public health specialists.

Politicians with a horizon of 4-5 years are of course more interest on sorting out negative impacts in a short time thinking about voters instead of concentrating on infrastructure development over generation. Therefore, the health sector receives priority instead the water and sanitation as infrastructure development sector. In addition, in the water and sanitation sector there is a 2 class system: the connected and the discriminated underserved (mainly the poor). Further infrastructure development does not help the connected one. This is different in other infrastructure sectors like roads where even the minister has to face the pot holes.

Coming back to the different solutions proposed by the health and by the water sector. The result of this difference is usually a legislation for health which propose different distributions of functions for sanitation than the legislation than the water and sanitation act. Evidence shows, that wherever the sector concentrates as much on infrastructure development and its operation as on health and the other impact areas the situation on the ground improves. Approaching the sector development from the infrastructure development BUT also from the managerial site, service provision is outsourced from civil service structure and you also seem to consider this more appropriate.

I agree, that decision maker on all levels have a role to play, but the role they can best play in order to achieve common goals in the interest of the development of society. It is not enough to emphasise: let everyone play a role. The direction of change is usually influenced by successful “pilots” on the ground inducing decision on national level and national up-scaling. But interests often side-line such lessons learned.

In sanitation there will always be a number of ministries involved. It is the nature of sanitation. Therefore, it is important to move the decision making on a higher level than ministries like has been done in Burkina Faso. It was the cabinet which distributed functions, although a bit different than you propose. And surprisingly it seems to lead to convincing results.

Best regards
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