India-Africa knowledge-sharing workshop discusses solutions for urban sanitation problems

  • Workshop attended by experts from India and South Africa

  • Experts say current faecal management wastes water which also leads to shortage of drinking water

  • People are exposed to faecal matter due to current faecal management system

  • ‘Flush and dispose’ system creates downstream challenges with regard to water quality

New Delhi, February 4: With increasing urban populations, a sanitation crisis is growing. A large amount of water is used in flushing human waste away in the method even as large numbers do not have access to toilets while cities across the world are reeling from a water shortage. “New technology and knowledge-sharing are essential to ensure that urban communities learn from each other and come up with solutions that are sustainable,” said Suresh Rohilla, CSE’s Water Programme Director. He was speaking at the India-South Africa Knowledge Sharing Workshop on Sustainable Water Solutions for Future.

The knowledge-sharing workshop brought together key functionaries from Water Research Commission – WRC, the knowledge centre for water -related innovation in South Africa, RAND Water  (the largest  bulk water  utility in Africa), South  Africa Department of Science and Technology and South Africa Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation. Participants from India included representatives from the Ministry of Urban  Development,  Ministry of Environment  & Forests, Ministry of Water  Resources, state  governments and  urban local bodies, leading academics, researchers  and independent experts involved in sustainable  water–wastewater/septage management. The workshop focus was on mainstreaming faecal waste management and mainstreaming  water-sensitive urban design and planning – opportunities and challenges.

Rohilla said CSE’s programme efforts had been directed towards meeting the twin goals of laying the foundations for a water-prudent society and adapting for climate resilience. “We believe this experience needs to be leveraged to share solutions with other countries in the developing world from South America, Africa and Asia to meet the needs of urban populations in the current water and wastewater paradigm which are affordable and sustainable,” he said.

Discussing technology for eliminating waste at the source, Dhesigen Naidoo from WRC said the provision of full waterborne systems may not be realistic or achievable in the short term, and even in the long term in many developing countries. What was needed was the next- generation toilet technology  and move away from the current ‘flush-and-dispose’ and ‘drop-and-store’ models. It was envisaged that  the new generation of technologies would eliminate human  waste  at source.  “We cannot continue to flush away valuable and scarce fresh water, creating  more downstream challenges  in terms  of water treatment and water quality,” he said.

Jayant Bhagwan from WRC highlighted some of the new innovation and tools in the management of faecal sludge by the Ethekweni Metro. “The model also saw human waste as a resource,” he said.

A CSE analysis said that for the past many years, countries of the developing world were struggling  to find solutions to the immediate  problems  of poverty, hunger, water  scarcity, pollution  and  climate change. It was important, therefore, to interlink global experience.

The roundtable meetings  engaged with policy makers and  practitioners,  academics  and  experts involved in advocacy on  sustainable  water  management in India aimed  towards  developing  state  of art  policy brief, technical  advisory and practitioners. 

Christine Moe from Emory University said rapid urbanization in urban and peri-urban areas of low-income countries had led to a growing sanitation crisis. Despite the considerable sanitation needs of urban and peri-urban  communities,  there was little data to inform strategies  to mitigate risks of faecal exposure in developing countries. Consequently, there is a need for site-specific evidence to help make decisions about sanitation investments. The Center  for Global Safe Water, Sanitation,  and Hygiene at Emory University has developed  The SaniPath  Tool to  assess  exposure  to  faecal contamination in low-resource  urban  settings  to  inform  advocacy,  prioritize investments, and respond to complex urban sanitation  needs.

Rohilla’s presentation showed that the current method of faecal management was capital-intensive and created and maintained a divide between the rich and the poor and was also natural resource-intensive (used water first to flush, then to carry the waste). CSE also presented a case study on Dwarka, a sub-city of Delhi. “Inadequate water supply in this area results in exploitation of ground water. Besides, Dwarka also suffers from flooding,” said Rohilla.

For further information, please contact Anupam Srivastava,, 99100 93893