Delft, The Netherlands, 19 Nov 2020

World Toilet Day 2020: Sustainable Sanitation and Climate Change

Every 19 November, the United Nations celebrates World Toilet Day. World Toilet day not only celebrates toilets but also rises awareness about the 4.2 billion people who live without access to safe sanitation.

World Toilet Day (WTD) is  a reminder of the need to tackle the world’s sanitation crisis and thereby contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6: ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

This year’s theme is “Sustainable sanitation and climate change”, which highlights the link between sanitation and climate change. These two subjects are deeply interconnected, and highly important for the livelihood of many communities.

Droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events triggered by climate change are challenging sanitation systems: septic tanks, toilets and treatment plants. For instance, flooding can damage toilets and spread human waste into communities and fields, or floodwater can pollute drinking water wells, both causing deadly and chronic diseases.

Connecting Toilets and Climate Change

Climate change and toilets is an unusual connection. Sanitary systems that are able to mitigate and adapt to the changing demands made by climate change do exist. Sustainable sanitation systems can reuse waste to safely boost agriculture, and others can reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.

The Tiger Worm Toilet is one type of these sanitary systems, a simple vermifilter: a filter which contains composting worms. The worms convert human waste into worm waste (vermicompost). The human waste is treated in situ leading to a reduction in the volume of solids, reduced emptying frequency and easier emptying (as the byproduct is a dry humus-like material which is generated at the top of the system). Solutions like this would not only help in feeding the world’s growing population, but also reduce the amount of emissions expended into our atmosphere. 

The Global South must build resilience into their sanitation infrastructure right from the beginning. The world is waking up to the need for a sustainable sanitary infrastructure, and IHE Delft is proud to be part of the movement by developing sanitation programmes for years, which are aimed to train water health professionals from all over the world.

IHE Delft Steps Up to the Challenge

Safe Drinking Water & Sanitation is one of the Institute’s main research themes, under which a great number of research projects are run, most with partners from the Global South. The Covid-19 pandemic does not stop IHE Delft from running its various sanitation-related courses: offering online short courses such as Sanitation & Public Health, and continuing to hold the 12-month Sanitation MSc programme as well as the 18-month MSc programme in Urban Water and Sanitation, which this year has welcomed sanitary students from over 10 countries.

In partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, IHE Delft hosts the Global Sanitation Graduate School (GSGS). This is a platform to facilitate the development and empower the dissemination of knowledge on sanitation through postgraduate (MSc) programs, online (self-study and instructor-led) courses, face-to-face (on-campus) courses and tailor-made training so that the sanitation challenges can be embraced with deeper insight, advanced knowledge, and greater confidence. While the Sanitation program is currently only available at IHE Delft in the Netherlands, the program is also adopted by universities in Asia, Africa and Latin America as a part of the recently Now hosting over 200 MSc students at 11 of the partner universities, and other 15 universities are expected to start delivering the programme from next year.

Patrick Ronoh, a 2019 graduate of the 12-month Sanitation MSc programme, is from Kenya where he started to work as Project officer Sanitation and Hygiene at World Vision Kenya after his studies. He has recently published his first academic paper, which is the result of his MSc thesis for which he was awarded 'The Best MSc in Sanitation Award 2019.'

Follow this link if you would like to read more alumni stories from the GSGS programme.

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