Why did the world's biggest urban eco-toilet scheme fail? (Erdos Eco-town Project in Erdos, Inner Mongolia, China)


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  • canaday
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Re: Why did the World's biggest eco-toilet scheme fail?

Hi Rowan,

Thanks for circulating this link. In EcoSan, potentially more than in other fields, it is important for us to learn from our errors.

"The devil is in the details." From other posts about this case, we know that subcontractors had not understood or followed the design. With 20/20 hindsight, we see that they should not have been trusted so much and there should have been more inspection. Maybe volunteers could have been called in for this inspection, if funds did not allow for hiring someone. Or what else oould have been done?

Best wishes,
Conservation Biologist and EcoSan Promoter
Omaere Ethnobotanical Park
Puyo, Pastaza, Ecuador, South America
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  • awaisarifeen
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Re: Why did the World's biggest eco-toilet scheme fail?

Indeed it is really disappointing for all those who are big supporters of such systems. ECOSAN concept was based on the premise that centralized highly technical treatment plants are not the solution in the future. And if finally they considered centralized treatment plant as option, this challenges the success of ECOSAN's basic concept.
A PhD position was announced with focus on research related to this area i guess. May be we should wait for the findings in the researcher's thesis.
A PhD thesis was also written by a researcher of Cambridge University with title "Towards Sustainable Sanitation: Evaluating the Sustainability of Resource‐Oriented Sanitation". This thesis had case study of this area. This thesis had interesting findings about the sustainability of system in question.
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  • Dena Fam
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Re: Why did the World's biggest eco-toilet scheme fail?

Thanks for posting this Rowen

It would be nice to have a well documented report on why this project failed....
My question would be. Was there monitoring, evaluation or learning captured over the 3 years of the project? Or did SEI go in to Ordos, install these systems without evaluation?

If this is 'the usual' scenario as Carol suggests, then it would great to try and figure out how to make it the exception!

I would really like to know more about this project too!

Dr Dena Fam
Senior Research Consultant
Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Institute for Sustainable Futures
University of Technology Sydney
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  • Ecowaters
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Re: Why did the World's biggest eco-toilet scheme fail?

The usual.

This isn't the world biggest eco-toilet scheme.
Remember the "millions" of dry toilets removed from low-income government-funded housing in Mexico reported in the first edition of Ecological Sanitation.

Dry toilets in low-income housing schemes often come with issues of buy-in, prescribed typology and design, operation and maintenance, installation, and so forth. All issues that must be worked out by any introduction program.
It's too bad because when this was reported in the U.S. a few months ago, this story was referenced by many considering installing these systems.

Carol Steinfeld
Book writer, researcher, workshop presenter, eco-toilet vendor, market transformer

carol-steinfeld.com (personal)
www.ecotoilets.org (soon)
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  • RowanBarber
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Why did the world's biggest urban eco-toilet scheme fail? (Erdos Eco-town Project in Erdos, Inner Mongolia, China)

Some one just sent me the following link via twitter.

I would be interested to hear from the forum, if anyone has some insights into what went wrong.

Rowan Barber
Australian Sustainable Business Group
Engineers Without Borders Australia
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