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Governments urged to adopt safe wastewater measures

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-06-08 21:12

In response to the urgent threat posed by climate change, planners and service authorities from across the globe have been urged to adapt their approach to wastewater and fecal sludge management.

In a report published by UN-Habitat on Tuesday, researchers found nearly half of the world's population lacks sanitation services that are securely managed, preventing the safe treatment and disposal of excrement.

In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, only one in five people benefit from safely managed services.

The report said national and local governments should prioritize sanitation and wastewater as a public service just like education, health or energy, where authorities have a clear mandate to ensure service delivery for all.

"Untreated wastewater leads to diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio and wider infections which can contribute to malnutrition and long term cognitive impairment," the report read.

According to the report, wastewater and fecal sludge contribute 62 percent of the water sector's greenhouse gas emissions.

Emissions relate to the treatment process and the use of energy, chemical production and transportation, which form essential parts of wastewater and fecal sludge management processes globally.

To secure sanitation outcomes, the report said policy makers and city planners must move from a de facto situation of various service delivery approaches to controlled planning of services across the sanitation chain.

To that end, city planners should adopt cost-optimization approaches like preparation and adoption of master plans or investment plans, which set out what they want to achieve along with long-term costs.

On financing issues, the report said Official Development Assistance is a major resource for governments seeking to boost access to sanitation and wastewater services.

According to the researchers, numerous innovations in sanitation and wastewater management including wastewater reuse and wastewater epidemiology played an important role in national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report said changing the approach to sanitation from waste management to resource recovery could uncover valuable financial gains.

Many economic sectors are set to benefit from excreta valorization, from industrial production to energy generation, agriculture and the leisure industry.

Countries like Israel are pioneering the reuse of treated wastewater at scale, where the water authority master plan aspires to reuse 100 percent of treated wastewater through economic tools and strict environmental regulations.

The report also called for integration of wastewater and fecal sludge management service with wider urban development and slum upgrading processes.

Speaking at the launch event, Andre Dzikus, chief of urban basic services at UN-Habitat, said a lack of critical data on the status of wastewater and fecal sludge treatment globally and at the country level is lacking.

"Without such critical data, local service delivery, investment decisions and regulation are not supported by reality," he said.

Despite the availability of knowledge of wastewater treatment technologies and processes, Dzikus said there is signify less research on fecal sludge treatment.

However, he expressed appreciation for the fact governments, development partners and other stakeholders are collaborating to develop creative solutions and invest in essential infrastructure and technologies.

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