Considering climate change in urban sanitation


  • JeremyK
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Considering climate change in urban sanitation

Hi All,

Please see the new publication ' Considering climate change in urban sanitation: Conceptual approaches and practical implications ' developed by the Institute for Sustainable Futures - University of Technology Sydney (ISF-UTS) and SNV.

This paper presents a comprehensive conceptualisation of how climate change could be considered in urban sanitation policy and programming.

Given the urban sanitation crisis facing many cities in developing countries, consideration of climate change can seem like an unwanted distraction from the immediate problems at hand. Climate hazards are often perceived as secondary to the urgency of establishing functioning urban sanitation systems. However, many of the deficiencies in sanitation services also limit cities’ resilience to disasters and present climate variability (the “adaptation deficit”), as well as to more extensive and long-term climate change.

As global warming continues to exacerbate weather variability and push climate extremes to new limits, it is likely that climate hazards will increasingly require proactive planning for sustainable sanitation services. In addition, if we hope to improve sanitation services, it is vital that today’s investments in systems and service models must remain appropriate in a changing climate, and not tie up future funding in avoidable repairs and replacements. The global drive and funding to address climate change also provides an opportunity to push improvements in the resilience and sustainability of sanitation systems. Moreover, recognition of the interconnections between sanitation and other urban systems can help prioritise sanitation improvements that achieve multiple goals.
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  • AjitSeshadri
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  • Marine Chief Engineer by profession (1971- present) and at present Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, Chennai, India. Also proficient in giving Environmental solutions , Designation- Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Head- Environment, The Vigyan Vijay Foundation, NGO, New Delhi, INDIA , Consultant located at present at Chennai, India
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Re: Considering climate change in urban sanitation

Dear JeremyK,

Your notings on considering climate change effects especially in case of urban flooding has brought out clearly the various aspects and we are appreciative of the same.

The detailed paper by USHHD, given as attachment describes clearly the strategies possible for city-development planners to design- plan and implement Etc.

Well wishes,
Prof Ajit Seshadri
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Head-Environment , VigyanVijay Foundation, Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others)Located at present at Chennai, India
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  • seshadri
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Re: Considering climate change in urban sanitation

This is interesting. Without discounting the qualities and observations presented in this publication, I would like to submit the following. I expect more on how to do urban sanitation differently because of climate change. This is either missing or a copy paste of what is discussed elsewhere in the corners of the world.

For example the "Water cycle, environment and public health" is the one linked more to climate change. This talks about the following
1) Work with other sectors on water and land management strategies to understand and reduce disruption to urban sanitation systems (e.g., by considering water resources and land-use plans when designing and siting sanitation infrastructure). - this is too general and discussed already in many platforms in different forms.
2) Mitigate downstream effects of climate change impacts on sanitation (e.g., monitor downstream water quality to inform action, reduce wastewater discharge through low-flow sanitation or on-site reuse) - the word climate change is added to the already existing sentence elsewhere. Some more fancy words like low flow sanitation or on site resue are added. But without much description. In urban settings is it possible for one to consider these two is a question.
3) Address potential for pathogen exposure in urban environments and consider how climate change may shift exposure and risks for different populations (e.g., by identifying risks through sanitation safety planning) - this is a material for R &D. Even here there are examples how high temperature or temperature shifts alter the microflora and increase or decrease pathogen loads. -identifying risks through sanitation safety planning - How?
4) Consider opportunities to meet multiple objectives with sanitation improvements and look for win-wins (e.g., by using human waste as fertiliser and soil conditioner, by generating biogas for energy) - old ideas copied here without much changes.
5) Reduce contribution of urban sanitation to climate change with options that have low energy intensity or low greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., reduced pumping requirements by choosing decentralised system or modifying treatment processes to reduce emissions) - these are all used by many urban municipalities using decentralized systems. The meaning for reduced pumping requirements is lost somewhere. Modifying treatment process to reduced emissions - any examples we promote here or have seen happening in the corners of the world.
The background papers should also carry some ideas how these problem could be overcome through various steps / ideas / R & D outcomes. Listing out or copy pasting some of the best examples will help readers to understand the possibilities.
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  • JeremyK
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Re: Considering climate change in urban sanitation

Ajit and Sundaram, thank you for your comments.

In many ways, conventional "good" sanitation planning, implementation, and monitoring will itself go a ways toward addressing climate change impacts. As Sundaram noted, some of the ideas in the learning paper are based on recommendations that already exist for the urban sanitation sector, just with added tweaks for climate change.

Surprisingly, this appears to often be overlooked in the sanitation sector (and the broader WASH sector). Much of the (little) discourse on sanitation and climate change focuses on "climate-proofing" sanitation infrastructure to the neglect of social, institutional, and environmental dimensions that we know are critical for sanitation sustainability. In what ways does climate change interact with these other dimensions? This is something we tried to draw attention to in this publication, especially in regard to providing equitable benefits.

It isn't all "business as usual - but do a better job of it". There is a lot of content in the publication relating to ideas of flexible and dynamic sanitation that can change as conditions change. This adaptive style of resilience thinking has made it way into the water sector (primarily in high-income countries) but has not been much considered in the sanitation sector although it has potential.

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  • Elisabeth
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  • I'm passionate about SuSanA's role in the WASH sector since about 2005. I'm a freelance consultant since 2012 (former roles: program manager, lecturer, process engineer for wastewater treatment plants)
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Re: Considering climate change in urban sanitation

There is a presentation available that gives an overview about the new publication that is the topic of this thread:

Climate sensitive FSM: New thinking from vulnerability, resilience and risk-hazard approaches
Freya Mills, Jeremy Kohlitz, Naomi Carrard,
Antoinette Kome and Prof. Juliet Willetts
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney (ISF-UTS)
and SNV Development Organisation

(it was presented at the FSM5 Conference: )

Here is one of the slides from the presentation:

I find presentations slides are always a great way to get a quick overview of a publication - even better than the summary of the publication.

And here is the publication in the SuSanA library:

Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(under consultancy contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @EvMuench
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