Productive sanitation a better term than ecosan?

  • jonpar
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Productive sanitation a better term than ecosan?

Dear Robert et al,

I've not actually had a detailed look at the Fact Sheet on "Productive sanitation and the link to food security" but what interested me was the fact that the working group decided to refer to 'productive sanitation' and not 'ecological sanitation'.

Presumably this was intentional but I'd be interested to learn a bit more about the rationale for this decision?

It might also be a good to refer to the background paper to the Bonne Conference on "Understanding the Nexus" which makes reference to productive sanitation
www.water-energy-food.org/documents/understanding_the_nexus.pdf

Do you know if it is that this document where productive sanitation was first given such high prominence?

There are increasing references to productive sanitation (e.g.
www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/content/documents/656RIO20%20FIVAS.pdf ) and I note that the article on IWA's Water Wiki entitled "Helping Sanitation Enter the Era of Sustainable Development" at iwawaterwiki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Articles states that ...."a new term has developed productive sanitation which addresses both sanitation and soil productivity. ..........Ecological sanitation is essentially synonymous with productive sanitation,"

Do I take it from this that you think that SuSanA members should move away from "ecosan" and start referring more routinely to 'productive' (and 'sustainable') sanitation as the two main concepts that SuSanA is promoting (i.e. resource recovery/reuse and operational sustainability.

It also leads to the question, what is SuSanA's official stance on this and how do these terminologies influence strategic direction and publicity about SuSana activities?

best regards.

Jonathan


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  • rob#
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  • Works at German Toilet Organization in Berlin/Germany. Lead of SuSanA WG5 “Productive Sanitation & Food Security”
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Re: Update of SuSanA WG 5 act Sheet (Food security & productive sanitation)

Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for bringing up this issue.

I think one of the reasons why the working group decided to use the term 'productive sanitation' over 'ecosan' is that the term 'ecological sanitation' is used quite differently by many people. Ecosan is sometimes used to describe an approach (reuse-oriented closed loop approach that considers waste as a resource), sometimes it is used more or less synonymously with 'sustainable sanitation' and by many it is just used to describe a certain technology (UDDTs - Urine Diversion Dehydration Toilets). ...and for some it even has a somehow negative connotation as something probably ecologically nice but not implementable at large scale.

Using the term 'productive sanitation' allows to bypass this problems a bit and use it for all sanitation solutions that make productive use of the nutrient, organic matter, water and energy content of human excreta and wastewater in agricultural production and aquaculture. It allows a liberation from the old and counterproductive disputes between the 'conventional' and 'ecosan' sanitation scene. It also shifts the focus slightly from the ecological issue to something that produces tangible results and economic benefits. ...and to clearly distinguish between ProSan and SuSan we also stated in the latest fact sheet version that productive sanitation approaches can only be considered sustainable if technical, institutional, environmental, social and economical aspects are appropriately addressed.

And I personally wouldn't see a big problem for SuSanA to promote all kinds of different sanitation solutions be it ecosan, environmental sanitation, productive sanitation, conventional sanitation or whatever term one can think of. The bottom line, however, should be that they could only be considered sustainable if they meet certain sustainability criteria as outlined in the SuSanA vision document.

As to the history of this term: To my knowledge the term productive sanitation has been created when this working group was formed way back in 2007. It was later on used to label a joint SEI/IFAD project focussing on productive reuse in Niger. ...there was also a seminar during Stockholm WWW 2009 on food security and productive sanitation ( www.worldwaterweek.org/sa/node.asp?node=...ation&id=1&event=223 ). So over the years it became a more and more accepted term and that it made its way into the Bonn2011 Nexus background document is probably due to the fact that SEI was the main author.

Hope this helps and looking forward to some more reflections from the group

Warmest regards

rob

Robert Gensch

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  • Carol McCreary
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Re: Update of SuSanA WG 5 act Sheet (Food security & productive sanitation)

I've been trying out "productive sanitation" with members of the general public and find their ears perk up. It breaks the ice, almost starts to shift the paradigm. PHLUSH's Jeff Holiman uses the term "restorative sanitation" when speaking about soils and agriculture.

The more troublesome word is "sustainable", which requires careful definition, as SuSanA has done. Still it's difficult to keep the definition solidly embedded in the term. Consequently, "sustainable" is misused in general parlance.

Carol McCreary
Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH)
1240 W. Sims Way #59, Port Townsend, Washington 98368 USA

Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.
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  • philfei
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Re: Productive sanitation a better term than ecosan?

Dear Jonathan,

thank you for bringing up the issue of changing the term "ecosan" to "productive sanitation". I agree with Robert that many people are using "ecosan" in doubtful ways and a new term could bring us closer to other players in the sanitation sector. I agree also with Carol that "sustainable" is misused quiet often.

From my point of view it should be discussed in the SuSanA core group and/or at the next SuSanA meeting. But nevertheless it would be great to get more feedback from other SuSanA members.

Cheers,
Philipp

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
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  • Arne
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Re: Productive sanitation a better term than ecosan?

Hi Jonathan,

In November 2006 Uschi Eid had used the term "innovative, hygienisch sichere und wirtschaftlich produktive Sanitärlösungen" (innovative, hygenically safe and economically PRODUCTIVE SANITATION solutions) in her inaugural note to the "DWA-BMZ-GTZ ecosan-symposium - new sanitation concepts - international project experiences and dissemination strategies - Eschborn, Germany, 2006".
When putting together the texts and publications for the event we had a discussion in the ecosan-team, that "productive sanitation" could be a good new term hinting at what we want to emphasize, and if we want to use it more often. We did.
So already in the ecosan-newsletter from November 2006 the term "Vergleich produktiver Wiederverwendungsoptionen" (comparison of productive reuse options) is used to describe reuse oriented sanitation systems. From there on different variations were tried out until "productive sanitation" became somehow a term. I think it was already used more often during the "International Year of Sanitation" in different publications.

So to my knowledge this is how the term was introduced - and if this is true, the first publication using it in the german version and in a long form is found here (see first line on page 3):
www.gtz.de/en/dokumente/de-nachhaltige-s...tionen-text-2006.pdf

best Arne
____
Dr. Arne R. Panesar
Countrymanager
Division Eastasia and India
Department Asia and Latin America

Deutsche Gesellschaft für
Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
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  • dmoore25
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Re: Productive sanitation a better term than ecosan?

Good day! What a great article and I appreciated it a lot! In my own perspective, much better to have a term productive sanitation than the term ecosan it's because productive sanitation is very understandable, economical, broad, and so many others. Keep it up.

Best wishes,
waste water queensland

Note by moderator: please sign with your name and put a link to your company (if you want) into the footer of the posting - but not instead of your name. The way you have done it now is too much like plain advertising.
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  • jonpar
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  • As part of the Engineering team, my role at IMC is to lead on the delivery of projects requiring specific expertise on urban sanitation (including excreta/waste/wastewater/stormwater management) focusing on technical, institutional and financial aspects in project design and implementation.
  • Posts: 223
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Re: Productive sanitation a better term than ecosan?

Dear all, many thanks to Ben and Arne for their perspectives on this and also to others for their contributions to the debate. .. sorry for not having responded before... I have been subsumed with work in the build up to the World Water Forum which I blogged about yesterday. Regarding terminology, it does seem that "productive sanitation" has wider appeal. On the one hand one could say that this is just a discussion about semantics but it does make a big difference to how people view the subject that one is referring to. My Phd was lumbered with the word "sustainable" in the title which was incredibly interesting for the first half but turned out to be a real headache. I concluded that, without further defintion, it is really too broad and open to too much interpretation. I think SuSanA's definition is a good one as it encompasses both environmental/ecological and operational sustainability (the latter also taking on board the need for financial sustainability). My personal opinion is that ecosan has too much Gaia terminology. I don't have any problem with it but I think we have to accept that for many it does have hippish connotations which doesn't do much to bridge the divide between those who uphold ecological principles first and foremost and those that see this as an nice add on for business if it can be a way to make more money. In my opinion the term "productive" is acceptable for both communities and should therefore be the one that we start to use more consistently in our communications. This is particular relevant in the build up to Rio+20 as I was reading that one of the key areas of discussion will be sustainability from an economic perspective (green economy). This is evidently controversial for the die-hard ecologists but after 20 years since the first conference, I think we have to accept that if we are not able to put our arguments in economic terms, then there is considerably more chance that it will fall on deaf ears. It is this line of argument which ended up with me as being asked to lead on the Working Group on Finance and Economics (previously Cost and Economics) and I am aware that I need to put more time and energy into this. However, there is only so much I can do. I therefore request that those who are interested in this working group to communicate with me about areas where they feel that they can contribute. best regards, Jonathan

Dr. Jonathan Parkinson
Principal Consultant – Water and Sanitation
IMC Worldwide Ltd, Redhill, United Kingdom
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