Capacity building key to mainstreaming onsite sanitation management

Capacity building key to mainstreaming onsite sanitation management

ÇSE’s School of Water and Waste aims to establish policy principles, innovative technologies and implementation strategies for citywide water and sanitation management

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The world is urbanising rapidly, with around 55 per cent of its population — 4.2 billion inhabitants — living in cities. The demand for key services like safe drinking water and sanitation is likely to emerge as a major challenge in the coming years.

This is especially true for sanitation provisions. Many towns and cities are without sewerage. Formal sewerage provision is often confined to central business districts and high-income areas even in those places where it exists.

Looking at the prevailing situation, experts have critiqued the perspective of solely using the conventional infrastructure approach of centralised systems of sanitation management. Statistics show that 80 per cent of water worldwide is released untreated into the environment. This problem is even worse in developing countries.

State and non-state organisations across the globe have realised that sewerage networks alone cannot help achieve the increasing treatment capacity. Onsite sanitation management is a practical solution to meet this demand and reach those without adequate sanitation.

The approach promotes treating the waste at source, rather than dealing with it several miles away in a centralised manner. It can be considered as a sustainable and effective solution to achieve citywide sanitation for all.

Decentralised technologies and city-based governance are being actively endorsed for urban sanitation in developing countries. The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) issued the  Advisory on On-site and Off-site Sewage Management Practices  as a comprehensive tool to strengthen the policy on sewage management (including on and offsite), address the complete sanitation value chain and work towards circular economy.

A key bottleneck in scaling the approach is the lack of knowledgeable and skilled practitioners. Municipal agencies and practitioners have little technical capacity for sanitation planning and execution.

Filling the capacity gap has acquired utmost importance for urban sanitation within the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals implementation framework. Experiences from many sanitation programmes have shown that sustainable action is not possible without skilled human resources. They are required to enable key public and private players to design, build, operate and maintain facilities — even with enough funding and available political will.

There are numerous sanitation programmes in developing countries that have aggressive capacity building goals mainly aimed at government officials to strengthen urban governance and service delivery. However, these programmes lack focus to build technical skills and leave non-state practitioners (private sector, technology providers, etc) behind.

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