Home > Bangladesh, Sri Lanka > IRC – Peri-urban wastewater use in Bangladesh & Sri Lanka

IRC – Peri-urban wastewater use in Bangladesh & Sri Lanka

Strengthening Capacities for Planning of Sanitation and Wastewater Use: Experiences from two cities in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, 2010.

Link to full-text:  http://www.irc.nl/page/51911

Stef Smits, Carmen Da Silva Wells and Alexandra Evans. IRC International Water & Sanitation Centre.

Many peri-urban communities use wastewater (often untreated) in agriculture. Although wastewater-dependent agriculture provides livelihoods to farmers, there are associated health and environmental risks. The roots of this situation lie in the poor sanitation in cities, both due to limited access to basic sanitation services and improper collection, treatment and discharge of wastewater into water bodies, which may subsequently be used for irrigation purposes. Addressing this situation requires integrated planning towards the improvement of conditions along the entire sanitation chain (from household latrines to collection, treatment and reuse of wastewater), while maintaining the characteristics of wastewater valued by farmers, such as nutrient content. This has been the basic premise behind the Wastewater Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation (WASPA) in Asia project, carried out in the towns of Rajshahi in Bangladesh and Kurunegala in Sri Lanka. This document provides an overview of the experiences of the project and provides a critical reflection on the WASPA concept and its applicability.

The project found that the sanitation situation in both cities was less severe than originally hypothesised. It was not only limited access to basic sanitation which contributed to wastewater flows; rather other more important sources of pollution were identified, such as discharges from small industries and leakage from poorly maintained or inadequate septic tanks. Yet, the situation also proved to be more complex than originally thought, necessitating that a broader range of stakeholders be involved in the identification and implementation of solutions. The multi-stakeholder approach of Learning Alliances and participatory planning cycle provided a useful framework for addressing this complex problem. This paper also identifies potential drawback to the approach, in that stakeholders tend to identify isolated and conventional actions to address the situation, and thus need strong facilitation and increased knowledge to arrive at appropriate solutions. Also, transaction costs of the approach are high, in terms of getting the teams in place, starting up the multi-stakeholder process, and getting stakeholders to carry out a joint planning exercise and subsequently implement their plans. However, the paper shows that integrated, joint planning is important for addressing complex problems that span sectoral, administrative and social divides and that, ultimately, the high transaction costs are justified.

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