Are there any cities that have banned unlined pit latrines?


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  • ddiba
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Are there any cities that have banned unlined pit latrines?

Dear All,
In many cities in low and middle income countries, most households use unlined pit latrines (for example 64% of households in Kampala). This is a huge challenge to emptying pits by vacuum trucks and other motorized options, not to mention the other disadvantages with regards to space limitations and contamination of groundwater resources.

In Kampala, there have been discussions by some about the possibility of putting in place by-laws/ordinances that limit or ban unlined pits within the city. I wonder if anyone knows of any city or town (or country) that has such a kind of ordinance or law. What experiences have they had in implementing it and did it have a huge impact on sanitation services overall or not? In addition, what implications has this had on the urban poor (who could have difficulties in paying for lined pits)?

I will be glad to hear of experiences in this area.

Daniel Ddiba
Co-lead for SuSanA WG5: Productive sanitation and food security
Research Associate at Stockholm Environment Institute
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Are there any cities that have banned unlined pit latrines?

Hi Daniel,

It's an interesting question that you posed here, but one thing I am confused about:

You write your post as if there is a difference between unlined and lined pit latrines when it comes to groundwater pollution. This is not the case as far as I know. Well, it depends on what your definition of a "lined" pit latrine is? I think most people mean that there would be some lining at the top in order to make emtpying easier and reduce the risk of the pit collapsing.

The lining would not be at the bottom though, so in terms of groundwater pollution there is no difference between a lined and an unlined pit latrine.

Unless you mean a "fully lined" pit latrine which is then no longer a pit latrine but rather a holding tank in the ground, right?

With regards to cities that have banned pit latrines, I guess all cities in the developed world would have a ban on those? People are obliged to connect themselves to sewers. In rural areas of developed countries, the regulation is probably a bit different but it's certainly not something the authorities would encourage unless you live on acreage... Perhaps if septic tanks are allowed then pit latrines would theoretically be allowed as well?

But I am curious to hear what else you have found out since you made your post two months ago?

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
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  • kevintayler
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Re: Are there any cities that have banned unlined pit latrines?

Hi All

I would echo all of Elisabeth's comments. The only point is that septic tank to soakaway/drainfield systems are found in developed countries - my information (based on reading rather than direct observation) is that septic tanks are common in rural areas in North America. They are now fairly rare in the UK but still exist in some rural areas.

As to examples of where unlined pits have been banned - my understanding is that they were not allowed in urban areas in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. That seemed to be something left over from the Colonial period and the Smith regime. Of course, Zimbabwe has always promoted pit latrines for rural areas. Perhaps someone who knows more about the country can comment further.

In the Philippines, they are trying to discourage people from using pits that allow wastewater to percolate into the ground but they suggest replacing this arrangement with connections to drains, which to my mind will often be worse. Again, it would be interesting to get any feedback on this.

Kevin Tayler
Independent water and sanitation consultant
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