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

  • madeleine
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  • Sanitation is dignity and life. Through living and working 15 years in (Mozambique) where Cholera is endemic, the importance of sanitation became evident, furthermore it is clear that sanitation is more than an infrastructure
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Re: Why did the World's biggest eco-toilet scheme fail?

HI
NO need to worry that much since the technology in Erdos was for a multistory buidling which was not really a developed technology at the time . The technology you are planning for the riding school is a tested techonology within the region. There are more than 70 000 operational urine diverting toilets in Durban South Africa. However very important is that there is time and funds spent on training how to use and manage the toilet. A good rule of the thumb is to plan time and funds for the social infrastructures as for the technical infrastructures- Cheers
Madeleine.

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

Hi Madeleine,

I disagree with your statement "the technology in Erdos was for a multistory buidling which was not really a developed technology at the time". As I have already informed in the forum (09.08.2012), we planned and installed composting toilets in nine 4-storey houses (longest down pipe length 10 m which are in operation since 1994.

There are more than 70 flats rented and owner-owned as well and the maintenance is organized by the inhabitants themselves. Because of the experiences resulting from this project, we changed the design of the composting container in 2000, to make operation and discharge more comfortable. Also some tests were made (noise, fire, security, health) to be conform with the building codes and to achieve permanent approval. During long term operation since 1994, there were no complains concerning smell, hygiene or general function. Of course, there were a few inhabitants, who did not make the regular maintenance (1 hour per month). So this was solved by a service team consisting of neighbours.

I don´t see any problem to make other projects like this in future, as long as people want the system and are willing to do something for it.

Best regards

Wolfgang

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  • madeleine
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  • Sanitation is dignity and life. Through living and working 15 years in (Mozambique) where Cholera is endemic, the importance of sanitation became evident, furthermore it is clear that sanitation is more than an infrastructure
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Re: Why did the World's biggest eco-toilet scheme fail?

Yes Wolfgang
You are right there good examples of functional multistory technology! In Erdos there more complexities well explained by Arno and Guoyi-
I am sorry I was too hasty when I quickly replied the comment about the installation in the riding school. My intention was to encourage installation of Ecological Sanitation systems and of cours not to forget the important social components, acceptance and the users understanding of the system.
All the best and thanks for the observations.
madeleine

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

It is hard to say what went wrong. The system has been used in thousands of homes and multi unit complexes all over the world successfully so what happened here is an aberration. The Swedish Institute is well respected so I can only assume that the design was correct. That leaves the installation. I can only assume that there were short cuts made to the installation that would save money and there was inadequate oversight when the system was installed. It is hard to go back after installation to make corrections.
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  • muench
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Re: Why did the world's biggest urban eco-toilet scheme fail? (Erdos Eco-town Project in Erdos, Inner Mongolia, China)

Last year, I tried to concisely summarise what went wrong with that project and to cite the relevant literature in the UDDT article on Wikipedia. With the help of Arno, I came up with this short description:

en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Urine...ulti-story_buildings

Best to read it there directly on Wikipedia but I copy the relevant section here below in case someone reads this forum post off-line (the square brackets take you to references on Wikipedia):

However, due to several problems related to improper design and installation, the lack of a cohesive plan to address these deficiencies and the resulting resident objections, the UDDTs were replaced by conventional flush toilets in 2009. The main reasons for why these UDDTs were replaced with flush toilets were:[10]

  • Odor problems in the apartments produced serious objections amongst residents. Designing a properly working ventilation system for an extensive network of piping (urine pipes, ventilation pipes, fecal chutes) and accounting for factors such as high winds, open bathroom windows, and kitchen exhaust fans, required relatively complex engineering. Frozen ventilation pipes during the extremely cold winters of 2007 and 2008 caused odors from the feces bins to back up into the apartments contributing further to residents' displeasure.
  • In such a large-scale UDDT system the plumbing pipework for the urine pipes and the ventilation system demand a relatively high level of engineering and construction, a standard not met by the builders.
  • The standard of living in the Erdos area rose dramatically during the project time period. Also, water shortage (which had been a driver for dry toilets) was no longer regarded as a problem since a pipeline was built to the Yellow River and deeper fossil water resources were extracted. Many residents viewed flush-toilets as the "gold-standard" in sanitation and dry toilets were considered as backward in a modern urban setting.
  • A stakeholder education approach among residents focused on early participation and learning about the use and maintenance of the UDDTs was not possible since the residents arrived on the scene only after the apartments were already built. They also had no choice in deciding on the kind of toilet that they wanted to have.
  • There was a lack of dedicated owners who felt responsible for solving maintenance issues. Once the design problems were identified, residents balked at covering the costs necessary to correct the problems with the existing system, particularly given their distrust of it. So, needing to resolve the issue quickly, the District Governor responded by investing in flush toilets instead.

If these lessons are taken into consideration, future large-scale UDDT installations in urban areas could succeed.[10]


Reference number 10 is to this book which is unfortunately not (yet?) available as open access or for free download:

Rosemarin, Arno; McConville, Jennifer; Flores, Amparo; Qiang, Zhu (2012). The challenges of urban ecological sanitation : lessons from the Erdos eco-town project. Practical Action Publishers. ISBN 1853397687.

Regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

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