5. Breaking with Business as Usual: Sanitation Innovations in the Asia-Pacific
- 23rd August 9:00 am -10:30 am (Hybrid)
- Convenors: Japan Sanitation Consortium (JSC), Asia-Pacific Water Forum (APWF), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
This session explored how to ensure access to sustainable sanitation services for the poor and vulnerable to shift the paradigm and accelerate sanitation progress; different innovations and new approaches, such as Citywide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) are needed.
In this session, two speakers delivered the presentations, and the 3 speakers presented the showcases through the panel discussions with the questions from the moderators.
As the first presenter, Mr. Brian Arbogast (Director, Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, expressed pleasure in addressing the sanitation challenges and innovations session.
He pointed out the split mandates and lack of accountability for non-sewer sanitation services in many cities, leaving a significant portion of the population underserved. The traditional approach, where utilities only address sewer-connected areas, poses a substantial challenge.
CWIS emphasizes service delivery to overcome the challenges, aiming to provide safe, equitable, and sustainable services to all, including informal communities. He praised the momentum around CWIS and shared encouraging developments in efforts to reach underserved communities, such as the professionalization of sanitation workers and the formalization of existing systems. He urged challenging assumptions about subsidies for sewer connections and highlighted the importance of technological innovation in sanitation.
He discussed innovations for fecal sludge management, developing reinvented toilets with climate benefits, resilience to droughts and floods, and closed-loop waste treatment systems. He then emphasized the need for investing in critical but underinvested soft infrastructure, particularly strong regulatory environments and public data systems, to support effective decision-making at the city level.
Secondly, Mr. G. Asok Kumar, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga, Ministry of Jal Shakti, India presented the Namami Gange program, a flagship initiative of India, aimed at rejuvenating the Ganga River. The integrated river rejuvenation mission focuses on pollution reduction, improving ecology and flow, and strengthening river-people connections. The five main pillars include Unpolluted River, Overall Ganga Ecology, Ganga People’s Participation, Ganga Knowledge Base, and River-People Connect.
Several projects, with a budget of $4.5 billion, have been implemented, leading to achievements such as reduced pollution and increased biodiversity. Innovations in business models include the hybrid annuity model, the “one city one operator” model, and loan guarantees to ensure effective operation and maintenance of sewage treatment plants (STPs). Decentralized treatment technologies, nature-based solutions, and urban river management plans are promoted for sustainable and efficient sanitation practices. Additionally, the Swachh Bharat Mission, launched in 2014, has made significant strides in constructing toilets and achieving open defecation-free status.
He highlighted collaborations with the Ministry of the Environment, Japan (MOEJ) for decentralized treatment technologies and efforts toward water and sludge monetization and reuse. The River City Alliance, focusing on rivers as economic growth engines, has gained traction with over 150 member cities. The presentation emphasized the need for proper monitoring through the Prayag platform, which monitors 175 STPs in real time. The Namami Gange program integrates technological innovations, community participation, and environmental considerations to address sanitation challenges and promote sustainable river management.
In the panel discussion, Mitzi Borromeo, Director and Executive Producer of Mind S-Cool TV, moderated the session.
Ms. Kate Medlicott, Sanitation Team Leader, WASH Team, World Health Organization, highlighted the evolution of sanitation monitoring over the past seven years within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework. Introducing the safely managed sanitation indicator, which considers the entire service chain, marks a significant innovation. This indicator breaks down estimates by service type (sewer, septic tank, pit latrines), providing a more comprehensive view of sanitation access globally.
While acknowledging the progress made, she also emphasized challenges, particularly in monitoring vulnerable populations. Data gaps persist, especially for on-site sanitation, and there’s a need to address issues such as the classification of pits as safely managed even if they are not emptied. The discussion underscored the importance of refining monitoring methodologies to capture safety risks better.
One key development is the shift towards building public data systems and regulatory data systems to monitor the back end of the sanitation chain, covering aspects like treatment. This transition from global comparison to national systems for driving progress is considered an exciting step forward. She emphasized the need for a clear distinction between service provider data and verified regulatory data.
She also discussed ongoing priorities, including gender disaggregation, climate resilience, linking coverage data with health outcomes, and understanding the impact of shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus is on refining global data to better inform decision-making at both international and national levels.
Mr. Patrick Lester N. Ty, Chief Regulator, Metropolitan Waterworks & Sewerage System, Philippines, discussed his organization’s measures to strengthen sanitation services in informal settlements. Water and wastewater services in Metro Manila have been privatized since 1997, operating on the polluter-pays principle. He emphasized the combined sewer system and the “polluter pays” principle to ensure affordability, with subsidies for low-income households. Enalbing environmental charges were implemented, incorporating wastewater service expenses into water bills and eliminating additional fees for desludging services. This move aimed to achieve citywide inclusive sanitation, particularly benefiting low-income households. However, challenges include a lack of knowledge and difficulty accessing septic tanks. Efforts are underway to increase sewer coverage and work with local government units to educate and encourage households to avail of desludging services.
HE highlighted the importance of grassroots efforts, education, and local partnerships to overcome challenges and increase sanitation service uptake. He emphasized the need for a mindset shift and local engagement to achieve higher penetration rates.
The discussion from Prof. V Srinivas Chary, Centre Director and Professor, Administrative Staff College of India, emphasized the significant progress made in India in adopting a citywide inclusive sanitation approach, addressing issues of equity, safety, and sustainability. The transformation involves treating sanitation as a public service, with a dedicated Environmental Sanitation Department in municipalities. The accountability of service delivery agencies has improved, with civil society organizations implementing social audit tools and report card systems. He also introduced the means toward the transformation for inclusive sanitation, such as decentralized models for schools and reinventing toilets, and the importance of collaboration for inclusive sanitation, addressing issues like waste management and sanitation worker safety. He also touched on financing models, including outcome subsidies and blended financing involving corporate social responsibility and public sector funds. He highlighted the innovations in India are seen as potential contributions to global efforts to achieve SDG 6.
Ms. Erin McCusker, SATO’s Leader and Senior Vice President, first conducted a poll on whether appropriate technology solutions for sanitation in informal settlements already exist and need scaling (Statement A) or if there is a need for further innovation (Statement B). Most participants chose Statement A. On the other hand, she emphasized a hybrid approach, stating that both existing technologies need scaling and further innovations are necessary. She introduced LIXIL’s consumer-centric product design approach, emphasizing affordability, acceptability, and the ability to enable safely managed sanitation. The Sato pen, a low-cost solution, was introduced, and the speaker discussed the importance of cost-effective, durable, and easy-to-transport products. She highlighted the challenges of navigating small spaces, the lack of skilled labor, and the need for long-term solutions in informal settlements. She also emphasized the importance of containing fecal contamination at the source and discussed LIXIL’s upcoming pit liner, a modular solution adaptable to various space constraints. She underlined the need for partnerships, collaboration, and innovation across the sanitation value chain to achieve safely managed sanitation in urban settings.
She also discussed efforts to reduce costs for sanitation products through initiatives like the Partnership for Better Living, focusing on duty exemptions and advocating for long-term solutions.
(Reported by Yumiko Asayama, Chief Manager)