Delft, The Netherlands, 31 Jan 2022

IHE Delft MSc graduate shows way forward for monitoring city-wide sanitation progress in new paper

More than 40 cities around the globe have adopted a city-wide inclusive approach to sanitation, which encompasses not only the parts of the city that are connected to a sewer system, but also any parts that use pit latrines or other non-sewered systems. This is a welcome development as these approaches include all who live in a city – regardless of their income, status or any other factors.

But determining whether the approach brings progress is tricky. Monitoring systems and tools developed in the past don’t capture the whole picture: Tools and methods used to gauge the effect of a sewered system could not also be applied to a non-sewered system. Tools that focus on hardware, such as toilets, sewers and treatment plants, don’t include factors that create an enabling environment – that is policies, legislations, financing and other factors needed to build, operate, maintain and replace sanitation systems.

To solve this dilemma, researchers suggested that two tools – one called Shit Flow Diagram Graphics (SFDG) and one called City Service Delivery Assessment (CSDA) – can be combined and further developed to monitor progress. When Farhad Safi was an IHE Delft MSc student, he developed these tools further and piloted them in the field, and found that graphs extracted from SFDG data combined with CSDAs could indeed be used to monitor changes over a four-year period at a city-wide level. The methodology and results are highlighted in a new paper published this month in Frontiers in Environmental Science.

“We piloted the combination of tools, and we found that it really works: you can use this to monitor progress of city-wide inclusive sanitation,” said Safi, who graduated from IHE Delft in 2019 and now is a manager at the Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association. “This is important because it will help cities determine which measures lead to progress.”

Safi and IHE Delft sanitation experts, supported by India-based organisations, applied the tools on the city-wide inclusive sanitation approach adopted by the Indian city of Tiruchirappalli, known as Trichy. The required data was available for the city, home to about 1 million people.

Safi and the co-authors found that Trichy’s use of a city-wide inclusive approach has led to progress. For example, across the city, safe management of excreta increased from 66% in 2015 to 74% in 2019.

Co-author Claire Furlong, IHE Delft Senior Lecturer in Sanitation, said the paper was the first that successfully monitors sanitation at a city-wide scale including the enabling environment.

“It not only adds to the discussion on the importance of monitoring, but it also shows how you can do it. This is invaluable for practitioners, including local governments implementing city-wide inclusive sanitation approaches,” she said.

Safi conducted the research described in the paper for his thesis submitted as part of his MSc in Sanitation in 2019. He won an IHE Delft Advanced Class scholarship that enabled him to develop an academic paper based on the MSc research.

Other authors are: Bhitush Luthra, Athena Infonomics India Pvt., Chennai, India; Suresh Kumar Rohilla, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, India, and Damir Brdjanovic, IHE Delft Professor of Sanitary Engineering.

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