Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on SDGs)

  • joeturner
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

I am sorry to continue with this thought, but I do not feel we have a satisfactory answer from the JMP.

Imagine a country which has done well by the standards of the MDGs and has been able to get 70% of people to the "improved" standard (let's just assume the other 30% have not met that standard).

The indicators suggested above and the HRWS both say that the objective is to get universal access to safe water and safe sanitation.

We have heard above that no matter the actual language of the indicators, the first objective is to get everyone to the "basic" standard, which is the "improved" MDG standard - even though I don't see that the goals, the indicators or the HRWS are going to be giving any credit for reaching that (although I suppose measuring the extent of OD will be showing to some degree those who have not met the MDG "improved" standard").

Weighed against that is the fact that there are 16 other goals, many of which depend on the delivery of safe sanitation in Goal 6.

So the imaginary country above has some money and decides that sanitation is a priority because it has so many knock-on benefits - in terms of reaching the other goals.

Are we seriously suggesting that country is going to target the 30%, who might include many expensive to reach and/or dispersed groups, to pull them up to the "improved" standard before tackling the other 70%?

Surely the way that these things are worded means that the countries are always going to be looking for the least expensive ways to make progress on the SDGs - so that in 10 or 15 years they can say "look, 70% of people now have met the SDG and HRWS standard for safe sanitation. we're not there yet, but we are making good progress," which they've only done by working with those who already have some form of improved sanitation and avoiding those most difficult to reach.

In fact, the only thing I can find in the SDG document which suggests that those with least access should be the priority is the declaration in the preamble that countries are promising to "leave nobody behind".

Add to this whether there will be any national political ambition to consider the rights and development needs of the poorest (which, if those with some access to sanitation are in the majority, is going to be a hard thing to sell) - and this concept seems impossible to deliver.
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  • Tim
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

Some thoughts on Katrin's summary questions:
Q1- As Krischan points out, sometimes aiming for safe sanitation might also make it less safe in the short to medium term (how can such a development be prevented?)

For me this issue speaks to the broader issue of how everyone, but particularly aid agencies, approaches development interventions. This issue should be preventable, by ensuring that every intervention is part of a long-term holistic strategic plan, linking and sequencing interventions and infrastructure development to maximise the benefits and minimise the harm. For this to happen, wherever possible more time and effort needs to be devoted to supporting the development of integrated plans, whether city-wide, district-wide or nation-wide, and then to ensuring that all interventions, whether government-led or not, are part of the plan and not just ad-hoc.

Q2 - Kumi and Joe Turner highlighted issues around this I think....
Will the indicators as currently phrased provide the necessary incentives for the progressive realization of universal access as outlined above? Or should we be recommending revised indicators to capture this nuance?

I am not convinced that the indicators as currently phrased will provide the necessary incentives for the progressive realisation of universal access. They only incentivise the highest level of service. The edits proposed by us (WaterAid) are to ensure that global monitoring is mandated to count progress up the service ladder, by disaggregating the data by service level (according to the JMPs proposed ladder) and by location (home, school and health centres as a first priority).

Now is the perfect moment for people who are concerned about this to write to their national statistics office to make these points and promote the edits we’re proposing to the indicators – contact me for more details.

The next challenge is that the indicators discussion does not alone determine what is considered ‘progress’ and ‘success’. My concern is that a simple reading of the goals and indicators as they stand, suggest that ‘success’ is universal access to the highest level of service (which is good, but perhaps ambitious to the point of not being credible) and that ‘progress’ is just the change in access to this highest level, with no credit applied in the formal analysis of global trends to progress from OD to ODF to ‘basic’, or from ‘basic’ to ‘shared safely managed’. The interpretation of the preamble, and the wording of the goal and targets, is important here, and the statisticians have a reasonable argument that this is a political, not a technical, issue. It's not just what we measure, it's how we interpret what we measure. Those of us working in the sector need to be vigilant and consistent in pushing for analysis which gives prominence to the principle of 'no one left behind' and the goals and targets demand for 'universal' progress.

The next question is the less clear issue of how progress will be tracked. At the UN level I am assuming that there will be some kind of global annual SDG assessment report, and it will be essential that this takes progressive realisation as the starting point of tracking progress towards the SDG. I would assume that such a report would be UN-led, and will therefore call on the JMP and GEMI for analysis on GOAL 6; the JMP certainly does take the approach of valuing progressive improvement and reductions in inequality, since they adopted the service ladder approach and quintile analysis, among other things, so I am cautiously optimistic about that side of things.

I’m less sure about how this will be reflected in the ‘messier’ side of the monitoring question – national ownership and monitoring, donor-country narratives where only ‘headline’ figures are broadcast etc, and am interested in how this relates to the discussion under Theme 3 – monitoring.
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  • RickJohnston
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Re: Theme IV: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

Hi all - glad to see this fascinating discussion. I wanted to share a few excerpts from the recent materials which JMP has prepared to support development of the SDG monitoring plans, relevant to the discussion about how basic and safely managed sanitation relate to each other. We propose the term "safely managed sanitation services" to include use of (not access to) improved facilities which are not shared (same as the MDGs so far) and where excreta are safely disposed in situ or transported and treated off-site. Both basic and safely managed services will be tracked and reported in our future publications:

"Service levels. The data collected by JMP yield information about different service levels for water supply and sanitation. The core proposed indicators for SDG monitoring of drinking water and sanitation are ‘safely managed drinking water services’ and ‘safely managed sanitation services’, respectively, as described more fully in Section B. JMP will also report lower service levels, such as basic water and sanitation services (similar to the ‘improved’ classification used for MDG tracking) and no services (e.g. open defecation or use of surface water as a drinking water source). Countries will need to reach universal coverage with a basic level of service before universal coverage of ‘safely managed services’ can be attained, and progress towards universal basic coverage should be seen as an important and necessary step towards reaching the SDG targets.

Location. The core proposed indicators for SDG monitoring of drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, as described more fully in Section B, refer to services at the household level. JMP will also report access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services outside the home, focusing on schools and health facilities."

The full statistical note can be downloaded from UN-Water:

www.unwater.org/publications/publications-detail/en/c/327832/

Also please note that we avoid the terms "safe sanitation" and "safe water", focusing instead on "safely managed services", which can be more clearly defined and measured.

Best regards,

Rick Johnston
Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation
World Health Organization
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  • joeturner
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

Thanks for that update, Rick.

It seems to me that you've now muddled two quite different issues,

1. The JMP and your explanation seem to be saying that progress to the HRWS and the actual wording of the goal is not going to be measured until first everyone has MDG "improved" sanitation. Given that this MDG failed spectacularly, how long are we going to wait for universal access? How are we going to know when we've got it?

2. The whole issue of 'safely managed sanitation services'

"excreta are safely disposed in situ or transported and treated off-site" is, in my opinion, a phrase which is almost entirely meaningless - unless backed up with information such as QMRA or some effort at global standards.

It is well known that emptying a latrine has significant risks. So is an owner emptying a latrine in their own property going to "count" as "safely disposed in situ"?

Will systems generated from the Indian sanitation programmes count? Will other system installed by the range of players in WASH all count? Who decides?

Or are we just saying that national governments will decide this for themselves?
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  • joeturner
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

I was wrong, there is a calculation, section B4, page 15



That's.. um.. interesting..
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  • muench
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

That really is an odd table, first time I've seen it.
Following on from our conversation on twitter where you (Joe) said:

in terms of safety, a composting toilet is apparently as safe as a first world sewered system. that's rubbish.

and

according to that, composting toilets are always better than everything else.


I agree with you that it is very odd. I am happy to see that they judged composting toilets as so safe but I think they went a bit overboard here and exaggerated? Also where are UDDTs or are they lumped in with composting toilets? Also "sewer to piped" does that mean "and treatment plant"?

Sorry, haven't read the entire report, this forum post is just prompted by what Joe put in twitter (his twitter handle is @bucksci if you want to follow him)

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  • joeturner
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

I am wondering if this is supposed to be descriptive not prescriptive. But if so, page 15 is pretty badly worded.
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  • SDickin
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

Hello all,
I've just joined the forum after reading along for a while...

Building on the point Tim brought up about having a holistic plan... Within this, more in-depth or critical analysis that considers who wins and who loses with a given intervention may contribute to reducing unsafe situations for some groups (particularly the most vulnerable or marginalized), and could potentially highlight a better option. As a geographer, this seems like a bit of a research gap.

I think Kumi made some good points earlier regarding safeguarding water resources and the environment. If we are truly talking about sustainable development goals, then identifying who/what benefits or is negatively impacted should include environmental and social dimensions as well (e.g. protecting ecosystem integrity, safe for women to access at night).

Regards,
Sarah

Dr. Sarah Dickin,
Research Fellow
Stockholm Environment Institute
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  • Katrin
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

Dear all,

Thank you for sharing your experiences and raising questions on this discussion thread so far.

This is just a short notice that the official part of this discussion will end soon. Contributions published during the official part of the discussion will be included in the summary which will be published next week (further information to follow).

You will of course be able to continue the conversation after that point. However, if you would like your ideas and thoughts to be included in the official summary of our discussion, NOW is the time to hit the reply button! ;)

- Katrin

Dr. Katrin Dauenhauer
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  • RickJohnston
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

Hi all - just to clarify, the safe factors shown in the table taken from the Statistical Note are not meant to be used for making actual estimates, only to illustrate the method. The paragraph below the table explains that "The safety factors shown in the table above are for the demonstration purposes of this note, but the actual factors will come from actual country situations, be it from literature reviews, focused studies or in-country consultations".

In fact, this table is closely related to SFDs, which would generate data on actual safety factors for the various steps along the sanitation chain, in different settings. The categories listed (rows in the table) are the standard response categories used in the household surveys that JMP draws on, so we have estimates (not perfect but still not too bad) about the number of people who report using each of those types of sanitation facility, at country, regional and global levels. The response categories are described in more detail in our Core Questions document here: www.wssinfo.org/definitions-methods/data-sources/ . (Note: the table does have a consistent typo: "sewer" should be "flush/pour flush" - sorry about that.)

The idea of the table is to combine these data on use of facilities with other data on safe management of different types of facilities, in different settings. Collecting those other data will be one of the big challenges of the SDGs, and many in the SuSanA community are involved in providing the evidence base needed, e.g. through work on SFDs and FSM. The JMP is very aware of the limitations of the "improved sanitation" metric, and the concept of "safely managed sanitation" as a better indicator is one that emerged from a long engagement with sector experts, including many members of this forum. We are very open to discussion about the best ways to get data to monitor safe management of faecal wastes that can be used for tracking SDGs, and welcome feedback on the approach described in the statistical note.

Best regards,

Rick (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
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  • Hutton
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

Sorry for the late post, but I wanted to say a word (not the final word!) from the economic perspective. I think it is critical to distinguish basic (or adequate) sanitation from safely managed excreta because of the cost implications. They have very (very!) different costs, and also there is different demand from populations. As I mentioned in a post in Theme 1 just now, there will be a new World Bank report, conducted with JMP, that estimates global costs of the WASH-related targets 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3. In brief, adding safe fecal sludge management and/or sewerage with treatment will cost a further three times the cost of having basic (on-site) sanitation alone. The numbers will be published soon but I just wanted to use these findings to say I am doubtful we can bring safely managed sanitation for all by 2030, but we can surely meet universal basic sanitation. We should therefore not endanger meeting basic sanitation for all. In concluding, as I have outlined - the distinction between basic and safe is important as meeting these targets is partly a resource (and willingness to pay) issue, but also it is about having the institutions that set and implement the policies and regulations - which is significantly more challenging for safely managed than basic sanitation.
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  • eddyperez
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Re: Theme 4: Safe versus basic sanitation (Thematic Discussion on Sustainable Development Goals)

Today is the last day of this discussion. My sense is that the discussion has provided more clarity on the difference between basic sanitation and safe sanitation ( services) and I feel that there has been a broad agreement that the SDGs are calling for basic sanitation for all and then moving up the ladder to safe sanitation services for as many as possible in the next 15 years. While there has been a vigorous discussion about the specifics of the indicators and how they will be measured, my own feeling is that we have come a very long way in both of these areas and that we should not allow "perfection" to be the enemy of the "good". The SDG era will be launched very soon and I am confident that the indicators and ways of measurements will improve over time as the sector gets more experience.

Moving forward, the challenge is to support countries in achieving the SDG sanitation goals and targets. This will include engaging governments and other stakeholders in countries in discussions such as the difference between safe and basic and moving forward with policy and sector reforms that will be needed to implement strong programs.
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