Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

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  • Elisabeth
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Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

This seems somewhat crazy but do you realise that we (SuSanA members) might not have a unified approach to how we define sanitation?* It might be nice if we could agree on which definition we think is "best". Once we have that we can carefuly edit the Wikipedia article accordingly. However, we will need to use appropriate references. I think it's valid to list several "common definitions" but then also explain which one is now the most widely accepted. 

Currently the Wikipedia articles defines sanitation as follows ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation#Definition ):

Definition
There are some variations on the use of the term "sanitation" between countries and organizations. Sanitation is not an easy concept to understand. [11] :4 The  World Health Organization  defines the term "sanitation" as follows:
"Sanitation generally refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and feces. The word 'sanitation' also refers to the maintenance of hygienic conditions, through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal." [12] Sanitation includes all four of these technical and non-technical systems: Excreta management systems, wastewater management systems (included here are  wastewater treatment plants ),  solid waste management  systems as well as drainage systems for rainwater, also called  stormwater drainage . However, many in the  WASH  sector only include excreta management in their definition of sanitation.

Hygiene
 promotion is seen by many as an integral part of sanitation. The  Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council  defines sanitation as "The collection, transport, treatment and disposal or  reuse of human excreta , domestic wastewater and solid waste, and associated hygiene promotion." [13]

Despite the fact that sanitation includes wastewater treatment, the two terms are often used side by side as "sanitation and wastewater management".

Another definition is in the  DFID  guidance manual on water supply and sanitation programmes from 1998: [14]

"For the purposes of this manual, the word ‘sanitation’ alone is taken to mean the safe management of human excreta. It therefore includes both the ‘hardware’ (e.g. latrines and sewers) and the ‘software’ (regulation, hygiene promotion) needed to reduce faecal-oral disease transmission. It encompasses too the re-use and ultimate disposal of human excreta. The term environmental sanitation is used to cover the wider concept of controlling all the factors in the physical environment which may have deleterious impacts on human health and well-being. In developing countries, it normally includes drainage, solid waste management, and vector control, in addition to the activities covered by the definition of sanitation."

Sanitation can include personal sanitation and public hygiene. Personal sanitation work can include handling  menstrual waste , cleaning household  toilets , and managing household  garbage . Public sanitation work can involve garbage collection, transfer and treatment ( municipal solid waste management ), cleaning drains, streets, schools, trains,  public spaces , community toilets and  public toilets sewers , operating  sewage treatment plants , etc. [11] :4 Workers who provide these services for other people are called  sanitation workers .


The paragraph about DFID's definition was recently added by Brian Reed. I actually think that definition didn't "stick" and it is not right to say that solid waste management is not normally included. We might be giving it too much weight here if we include this long quote. Or?

Here is the definition that I favour and which I added into the Wikipedia article some years ago:

Sanitation includes all four of these engineering infrastructure items (even though often only the first one is strongly associated with the term "sanitation"): Excreta management systems, wastewater management systems (included here are  wastewater treatment plants ),  solid waste management  systems, drainage systems for rainwater, also called  stormwater drainage .

I actually violated a Wikipedia editing rule there: I didn't add a reference. To this day I can't remember exactly where I read that definition. It must have been somewhere, I didn't make it up. ;-) Can someone tell me which reference to use?

I am not sure if I agree with the starting sentences of the lead either which say:

Sanitation refers to  public health  conditions related to clean  drinking water  and adequate treatment and disposal of  human excreta  and  sewage . [1]   Preventing  human contact with  feces  is part of sanitation, as is  hand washing  with soap. Sanitation systems aim to protect human health by providing a clean environment that will stop the  transmission of disease , especially through the  fecal–oral route . [2]  

Looking forward to your feedback,
Elisabeth

* We do have a definition for "sustainable sanitation" which you can read here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_sanitation  and which comes from the SuSanA vision document...
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  • paresh
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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

I agree that we as professionals need to agree what the term 'sanitation' means and use it consistently.

What the term means locally may depend on the services that are provided and how the departments within the local government / public utility are structured . I was recently interviewing local government officials and elected representatives in a town in Kerala, India. The focus of my work is FSM and I also intended to talk about sanitation in general to get an overview. After a few interviews, I was forced to use the term 'liquid waste management' as for the local government sanitation was most about SWM as it is the only service local government provides. 

The point being that once we agree on what the term 'sanitation' means, we will also need to disseminate and ensure it reaches service providers atleast, if not the masses. 

regards
paresh
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  • kimmee22
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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

What's interesting to me is how the JMP - which from my viewpoint is seen in much of the WASH sector as THE maker of all sector standards - does not include solid waste in its definition at all, which can create challenges in creating a reliable standard the sector can get behind elsewhere. See their definition here:  https://washdata.org/monitoring/sanitation

Thanks to my colleague @Eline Bakker for helping share the JMP definition previously!
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  • hajo
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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

dear all,

The point being that once we agree on what the term 'sanitation' means, we will also need to disseminate and ensure it reaches service providers
at least, if not the masses.

I think we over-estimate our influence, if we believe we can make service providers and masses 'worldwide' accept OUR definition. And it may also not make sense having an over-arching fixed definition because not every stakeholder deals with all aspects of sanitation.

I propose that Wikipedia gives a definition of all aspects the word 'sanitation' can have. I remember reading that also air pollution and noise can be considered 'sanitation' because they affect human health.

Let single stakeholders define their components of sanitation and then use the expression in the further discussion with this stakeholder comprising only those aspects. For example, a W&S utility may define the S=Sanitation as comprising sewers and FSM from latrine pits and septic tanks - if they are progressive - as so far the S stands for 'Sewerage' for most of them. The utility will not even think of drainage or SWM.

In SuSanA the 'S' goes hardly beyond human excreta and wastewater if you look at the list of 1110 topics under 'sanitation systems'. In SuSanA we consider solid waste only as far as it affects human excreta management either positively (co-composting of faeces with organic waste) or negatively (obstructing emptying of pit latrines). Same applies for 'drainage' which is only considered when we have to design on-site sanitation for flooded areas or high ground water table.

'Sanitation' has to remain an expression which can have a wide range of meanings and has to be defined always in its context by the respective stakeholders.

ciao
Hajo
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  • paresh
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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

Dear Hajo,
There is no disagreement regarding the need of a broader definition of sanitation that a service provider/stakeholder could interpret it for the specific service they deal with.

'Sanitation' has to remain an expression which can have a wide range of meanings and has to be defined always in its context by the respective stakeholders.

The only addition I would suggest here is that the stakeholder/service provider being aware that sanitation encompasses more aspects than what they deal with. 

I very much like the idea of including air and noise pollution to the definition of sanitation; I'd add that it affects both public health and the environment exactly like other waste streams. The first result from my google search is this 1973 paper , copying the abstract below for taking this discussion forward

Defining air pollution as an artificial change in the environment which adversely affects its use, the article breaks down the problem of air sanitation into its basic components: emission, dispersion, air quality and health effects. Controlling factors and influences are discussed. The article concludes that only a cooperative effort between government, industry and the engineering and health sciences will produce the air sanitation we require for good community health, while maintaining as much as possible the technological development our civilization demands.

Also like other waste streams, a cooperative effort is needed to reduce and manage air pollution.

Regards
paresh

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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

I have never seen air and noise pollution to be part of the definition of sanitation. They are part of "pollution" yes, but not sanitation, I would say. Unless you have reliable references to the opposite? If the references are of an older nature we could still include them in the Wikipedia article and explain that the general meaning of the term has changed over time.

I typed "what is air sanitation?" into Google and some rather old articles came up (like the one you had cited, Paresh) - from 1973.

Nothing came up when I typed in "what is noise sanitation?". So I think "Air and noise pollution" are the correct, current terms - not air sanitation and noise sanitation.

I think we should perhaps connect better the concepts of sanitation and pollution in the Wikipedia article. So far, the link only appears here:

Environmental sanitation
Environmental sanitation encompasses the control of environmental factors that are connected to  disease transmission . Subsets of this category are solid waste management, water and  wastewater  treatment,  industrial waste  treatment and  noise pollution  control.

Is sanitation about rectifying or preventing pollution?
 
Also I wanted to comment on your statement, Hajo:

In SuSanA the 'S' goes hardly beyond human excreta and wastewater if you look at the list of 1110 topics under 'sanitation systems'. In SuSanA we consider solid waste only as far as it affects human excreta management either positively (co-composting of faeces with organic waste) or negatively (obstructing emptying of pit latrines). Same applies for 'drainage' which is only considered when we have to design on-site sanitation for flooded areas or high ground water table.

This might be true in practical terms but it is not true by design. With that I mean that solid waste and drainage are for sure part of sanitation and would be part of this discussion forum but these topics don't seem to be that high on the interest list for most of our active members. Should we work towards changing that? Are the solid waste and drainage people using another discussion forum instead? How can we reach them and offer to them to use this forum?
We have a small but growing sub-category on solid waste management issues here:  https://forum.susana.org/208-solid-waste-management

Regards,
Elisabeth
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  • NWellington
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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

I think the definition given by the Kenya Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene Policy 2016-2030 is quite comprehensive:
"Sanitation is the hygienic means of preventing human contact from the hazards of waste to promote health and environmental integrity. It is generally used to refer to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human and faeces and urine. It can also be used to refer to the maintenance of hygienic conditions and healthy environments through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal to prevent the transmission of water and sanitation-related diseases".
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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

Sanitation is the hygienic means of preventing human contact from the hazards of waste to promote health and environmental integrity. It is generally used to refer to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human and faeces and urine. It can also be used to refer to the maintenance of hygienic conditions and healthy environments through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal to prevent the transmission of water and sanitation-related diseases

I really like this definition! 
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  • lucasdengel
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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

Like this too because it is comprehensive and flexible enough, but:
"...means of preventing human contact from the hazards of waste..." - preventing human contact from hazards?
Should it not rather read "...preventing human exposure from the hazards..."? 
"...to promote health"? Should it not rather read "...to prevent disease"?

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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

dear Elisabeth,

I have never seen air and noise pollution to be part of the definition of sanitation. They are part of "pollution" yes, but not sanitation, I
would say. Unless you have reliable references to the opposite? If the
references are of an older nature we could still include them in the
Wikipedia article and explain that the general meaning of the term has
changed over time.

I have tried to trace where I got that information from, but could not, it's too long ago. Definitely, I did not make this up by myself. And obviously I found it so queer that I always remembered it. I don't mind if we agree that we do not consider noise and air pollution being part of sanitation...  until someone else comes up with reasons why to include it again. I think it is not without possibility as some other contributions indicate when they define:

Sanitation is the hygienic means of preventing human contact from the hazards of waste to promote health and environmental integrity.

The reasons for not discussing solid waste and drainage in this forum so much may be caused by the fact that very different stakeholders are concerned with these matters. As I indicated, a W&S utility is hardly ever in charge of solid waste collection and drainage. Especially drainage is a matter of road and settlement planners. Plots and roads should be designed such that plots and houses do not get flooded and roads must be planned such that they are  neither flooded, nor washed away nor constitute 'dams' retaining rain water unintentionally. In a town/city, the planning of roads and their drainage is very often under responsibility of the respective local authority, never under the W&S utility. And the same applies to solid waste management: it is mostly under the local authority, I cannot remember it being under a W&S utility. I don't mind it being included under sanitation, but we just do not discuss it because participants on the forum are more related to human excreta and waste water management by their own studies, experience and work environment. 

ciao
Hajo
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Let's discuss which definition of "sanitation" we think is the most useful one? (and edit the Wikipedia article accordingly)

Dear Nii,

Welcome to the SuSanA discussion forum and thanks for bringing this policy to our attention. I found the pdf link:
https://www.wsp.org/sites/wsp.org/files/publications/Kenya%20Environmental%20Sanitation%20and%20Hygiene%20Policy.pdf

In their list of definitions they define "environmental sanitation" in a way that I would use for "sanitation", and "sanitation" in a way that I would use for "excreta management":

Environmental sanitation: The control of environmental factors that form a link in disease transmission and have an impact on human health. It constitutes a wide range of interventions designed to create and maintain an environment conducive to human health; reduce people’s exposure to diseases by providing a clean environment in which to live; and measures to break the
cycle of diseases. This includes sanitation (defined as the infrastructure and services required for
the safe management of human excreta) but also includes hygienic management and/or disposal of
human and animal excreta, refuse, and wastewater, solid waste management, water and wastewater
treatment, industrial waste treatment, drainage of surface water and sullage, washing facilities
for personal and domestic hygiene, food safety, housing and workplace sanitation, control of
disease vectors and air pollution control. Sanitation involves appropriate behaviours as well as the
availability of suitable facilities, which work together to form a hygienic environment

If we wanted to include this definition in the Wikipedia article (to demonstrate that there are a range of different definitions) it would be good to know whether the authors behind the documents used other publications. They probably didn't write all the definitions from scratch, in which case it would be better to cite the original sources.

Do any of our Kenyan SuSanA members have any insight into the background on how this document was written? The acknowledgements section does list a number of organisations and people who were involved. 

Dear Hajo,
I have split off our discussion about engaging people with an interest in drainage and solid waste issues to  here .

Regards,
Elisabeth
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