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Project Launch of 3 year research project at SEI “WASH and RESCUE”

October 18, 2011

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Launches WASH and RESCUE: a 3-yr research project to find solutions saving lives and improving human and environmental health through integrating disaster risk reduction in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene sponsored by Swedish MSB


The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) has awarded SEI a research project to build resilience against disasters in cities, with a particular focus  on the crucial role played by water, sanitation and hygiene improvements. The project will make use of experience from recent and recurring disasters and floods for example in Haiti, Mozambique, India and Sweden. For example, in areas with recurring floods such as Mozambique, it has become evident that there are benefits involved in integrating disaster risks into development which requires new thinking. With adequate infrastructure in the right place, requiring adequate zoning, construction permits, (urban planning) and enforcement of regulations then the impact of a flood in an urban area will not have the same disastrous impact on human well being and societal development.

Natural hazards do not necessarily lead to disasters, for example in 2010 two earthquakes of similar magnitude shock, Haiti (magnitude 7.0) in January and Chile in February (magnitude 8.8), but only about 3% of the lives were lost in Chile (700) compared to Haiti (250,000). One of the main reasons for this was Chile’s more advanced disaster risk reduction in terms of seismic engineering design and enforced building codes put in place as a lesson learnt from previous earthquakes. This illustrates how natural hazards, like extreme rainfall (flooding) and earthquakes, translate to disasters only when human society is unprepared for them and where infrastructure and planning has not been designed to withstand or buffer against them, and if society cannot respond adequately. The poorest populations are almost always the most seriously affected. Losses from natural disasters have averaged nearly 15 percent of the GDP in the world’s poorest countries in the past two decades, contributing to a poverty trap. Haiti is a sad example, with years of conflicts, political instability and recurrent disasters such as cyclones, floods and mudslides which have weakened Haiti’s already low capacity to invest in the long-term safety of its citizens, making it difficult to keep up progression of society.

Urban development in low and middle income countries is often increasing disaster risk because of the rapid urbanization, with maladapted infrastructure, structures and goods, in areas exposed to cyclones, floods, sea level rise, etc. where poor people move in from the countryside seeking employment and settling rapidly and unplanned on marginal lands. In effect many cities are in effect aimed for disaster. Poor local governance may be to blame, where local and central governments are unable to deliver adequate services, support and security. With more and more people living in cities, humanitarian responses are increasingly needed there, however they often do not have the adequate capacity to do so. And climate change will further complicate existing problems.

In spite of this, many organisations and decision makers do not take disaster risk reduction (DRR) seriously although most readily acknowledge the need. Implementation of these policies tends to be postponed for long periods until a disaster occurs, which only then kick starts preventive activities. Our research will look into how investment in practical, long-term risk-reducing efforts will increase resilience to natural disasters and reduce the pressure on humanitarian responses.

The research carried out in this Swedish MSB project will be for example relevant for cities engaging in the UNISDR campaign ‘Resilient cities’ where one aim is to encourage ‘Building Back Better’ and where responsible mayors take on the political leadership aiming for safer cities. Providing resilient water and sanitation services, which can cope with natural hazards like flooding, drought, cyclones and earthquakes is essential. Also, the research will look at how best to support the capacity of urban communities to mobilize themselves to learn about and improve the infrastructure systems – an often forgotten aspect. Although globally the disaster risk community is getting organized, the local level has not yet benefitted from this progress and there is very little knowledge available of what is required to enable and encourage improvements to reduce risk.

Several partners are involved in this project including:

1. Kristianstad City, Rescue Service, Sweden

2. Maputo Province, Mozambique (CLASS-A)

3. Bihar, India (WASH Institute)

4. Haiti Government – DINEPA

5. Emergency Shelter Unit (Formens Hus Foundation and IKEA Foundation)

Furthermore, the research project will benefit from engagement with different initiatives:
1) Swedish Water House (SIWI) Cluster Group for Water and Disaster Risk Reduction
2) Mistra-SWECIA at SEI, Stockholm Resilience Center
3) Swedish VAKA network
4) Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA) working group on emergency sanitation
5) Stoutenberg Group (ACF, Oxfam, WASTE, Red Cross, MSF)
6) SEI’s network of sustainable sanitation knowledge nodes
7) UNISDR: Resilient cities campaign
8 ) Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR ).

Contact Info:

SEI Communications –

SEI Research –

Stockholm Environment Institute is an independent international research institute. The Institute has established a reputation for rigorous and objective scientific analysis in the field of environment and development. SEI aims to bring about change for sustainable development by bridging science and policy.

This is a copy of an SEI Press release on 13 OCT 2011, International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction. Available at Preventionweb

Sustainable sanitation at the World Water Forum 6 (Marseille, March 2012)

September 27, 2011

Sustainable sanitation, ecological sanitation and sanitation in emergency will be present at the 6th world water forum in Marseille (March 12/17 2012).

Every three year since 1997, the World Water Forum mobilizes creativity, innovation, competence and know-how in favour of water and sanitation.

This year, the thematic process is organised in 12 “Priorities for Action”.  Among these priorities for action, the second one is “Improve access to integrated sanitation services for all“.  Thousands of delegates from all over the world are going to meet and discuss inovative and sustainable sanitation in any of the 8 targets of sanitation – see the list HERE

ACF will present, among others, the Ecological sanitationproject of Mongolia.

Emergency sanitation will also be presented, in the Priority for Action 1.4 “Prevent and response to water related crisis“. A first contribution was post on the Platform of solutions to present 3 solutions for emergency sanitation: the portaloos, the peepoo bag and the KK Nag Magic Slabs (see HERE).

If you have a solution, if you want to contribute, you can join the Forum. Visit the web site and send your contribution!






Bridging emergency and development sanitation at University College London

August 21, 2011

We are an interdisciplinary team of students at University College London currently undertaking a summer research project regarding sanitation in both disaster relief and development scenarios, in conjunction with UCL Healthy Infrastructure Research Centre and Engineers Without Borders (UCL Union). The project is supervised by Dr. Ka-Man Lai, UCL HIRC. Our work this summer is the initial phase of a project which will span for 5 years, aimed eventually at the development of a sanitation technology system which can ‘bridge the gap’ between sanitation in disaster relief and in development. The team is comprised of three sub-groups which will approach our overall research aim from engineering, socio-economic and laboratory standpoints. As part of our initial desk study and background research we are hosting an online forum which will allow the team to interact with experts and professionals working in the sector, which we would like to invite you to join. We invite anyone who would like to become involved in our research, this summer, and in the longer-term future. Please contact the team via email; or contact our Project Manager, Claudia Ramirez via email; Alternatively, if you know of a colleague or friend who also has extensive experience in a field relevant to our research, then please forward them this information or again, contact us via the email above.


This is a copy of the newsletter text of the department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering at UCL found here.

New MSc thesis on sustainable sanitation in flood prone Bangladesh

July 27, 2011

toilet 1toilet 2

When there is flooding, conventional pit latrines become dysfunctional and contaminate the surroundings

The topic is Sanitation for flood prone areas in Bangladesh by Mr Saif Uddin

The life and livelihood of people of Bangladesh have been revolving around river waters over the ages. Floods are natural phenomena that occur annually in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has around 310 rivers. The Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna are the three mighty rivers. Total catchment area of these three great rivers is about 1.72 million square kilometer. Only about 7.5 percent lies within Bangladesh. Therefore, Bangladesh forced to drain out huge cross-border monsoon runoff together with its own runoff. The volume of generated runoff exceeds the capacity of the rivers most of the time and this makes Bangladesh one the most flood vulnerable countries in the world. Rural people are the most sufferers from flooding. 73% of the total population of Bangladesh lives in rural area. On average, 20% area of the country inundates annually and during an extreme flood event this can reach as high as about 70%.

toilet 4toilet 3

Floods are one of the major problems for Bangladesh that makes the sanitation system unsustainable. During flood, pit latrine or other type of conventional latrine flooded, excreta come out with flood water and cause serious health hazard. This also causes serious degradation of environment. During flood, people loose sanitation facilities and forced to do open defecation. This causes additional health hazard. Also ground water table remains high after flood. So it is very difficult to take out water from pit latrine. Flood water also contain large amount of silt that filled the latrine during flood. As a result people lose their sanitation facilities permanently and move to open defecation after flood.


A household survey was carried out in Manikgonj and Munshigonj district to find out the performance of UDDT during flood period and to evaluate the existing condition of UDDT. It was found that average height of toilet is 0.69 m above ground which is higher than average highest flood level of 0.31 m. 100% users of UDDT have a good experience of using UDDT during flood period. Condition of UDDT toilet was assessed by observing five indicators. These are: condition of superstructure, condition of feces vault and cover, conditions of urine collection system, entrance condition, and cleanliness condition. Superstructure, feces vault and cover, urine collection system and entrance condition are marked as very good, if the components looks clean. If there is no damage on those components of toilet then marked as good and with little damage marked as average. The components are noted as poor, if there is any big damage but purpose can be served and very poor if toilet is not possible to use the toilet. Findings from field observations are presented below:



Very good




Very Poor
















Feces vault and cover







Urine collection system







Entrance condition





Cleanliness condition









Results from the household survey to evaluate the condition of existing UDDTs


toilet 5 improvedtoilet 6 improved

UDDTs and raised latrines provide resilience to flooding and can still function although high waters. Contamination is also minimized.


The MSc thesis about UDDTs in Bangladesh by Mr. Uddin can be accessed here.

Full reference: Uddin, M. S. (2011). Assessment of UDDTs as a flood resilient and affordable sanitation technology, and their potential to contribute to the fertilizer demand. MSc Thesis (MWI-SE 2011/25), UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands.

Mr. Saif Uddin is a Sub-Divisional Engineer at the Bangladesh Water Development Board.

He manages a website on sustainable sanitation for Bangladesh and is interested to do more activities in the area of UDDTs. He can be contacted on the phone + 88 01816718303 or on email:

Emergency Sanitation at the 35th WEDC conference

July 22, 2011

Emergency sanitation was present at the 35th WEDC conference (

All presentations and doccuments will be soon available on the net, but we publish below the presentation about the portaloos used by ACF in Haïti.

The emergency operations that followed the earthquake in Port-au-Prince showed the humanitarian community the importance of ready-to-use solutions for both water treatment and sanitation. In most situations, fortunately, the excreta management problem would be solved by digging pits and/or burying the waste. In such a context, emergency squatting slabs are a good solution. In areas where digging is not possible, portable toilets such as the ones used in Haiti could be an alternative.  The portable solution, however, is feasible and cost effective only if the cubicles can be rented locally. It would not make economical sense and it would be a logistical nightmare to store the cubicles and desludging equipments in a contingency stock, and to send them (by plane?) in the affected area. Another necessity is to be able to access a safe final disposal site for the sludge. Without such a facility, we would just move the problem somewhere else…

Pa fouillé la: the impossibility of digging
Reasons for not being able to dig pit or trench latrines were numerous after the earthquake. Most of them were linked with the fact that the disaster took place in a town, a capital city: streets were paved, narrow, oppen spaces were used by refugees or the owner did not give the authorisation to dig.

The "portaloo", the hand washing station and the cubicle attendent (photo J. Eyrard)


The portable solution
The latrine is a self standing plastic box equipped with a door, a lock and ventilation. The toilet seat is located over a 200 litres tank. This tank is collecting the urine and faeces, with no addition of water nor chemicals (optional, not recommended if service is daily). These toilets can serve up to 50 persons per day. With so many users they need to be cleaned everyday (or preferably every night). This service is done by a vacuum tanker operated by the same company. The option to rent only the toilets and to do the service with NGO tankers was considered but found not relevant: To manage a fleet of at least 5 trucks is a difficult task as these are difficult to maintain equipments: the pumps are the critical part. It is therefore recommended to rent the full service from the same company.

The portable toilets need to be supervised by a cubicle attendant to guarantee maintenance and cleaning. Each row of 10 cubicles was under the responsibility of one attendant, in charge of distributing the toilet paper and keeping the hand washing device full of water and soap. The attendant was a community member, paid for this job for a period of 15 days. Every 15 days, the attendants were changed to allow turn over among the community so that a maximum of people could benefit from the project. This idea was found to be relevant and added a great value to the project, by keeping the hand washing facilities operational (with water and soap) and “humanizing” the latrines. It also contributed to ease user’s mind about using the latrines – there was always a security issue in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake for women and young girls going to the toilets. Hand washing stations with soap were also installed, as they were not included in the rented cubicle – it was possible to rent an optional hand washing station, but this option was not feasible in the Champ de Mars because this hand washing station needs a connection to water network to function. An autonomous hand washing station with a container would be a better option in such context: a design point that should be improved.

A good solution for emergencies?
The portable toilet is a ready-to-use solution that can be deployed quickly in any emergency. From the users point of view the portable latrines is a good solution: it is users friendly, and provide a high class standard in terms of comfort and safety. There is no risk of falling into the pit or the tank, and the door is equipped with a lock. A larger cubicle is also available for wheel chair access, which is also a necessity in emergencies.

The main inconvenient is the price due to the necessity of a daily service. The price is depending on the number of toilets rented and the duration of the contract. This solution would therefore fit better for large numbers of units and long term contract. The cost efficiency must be balanced with other option (if other options are available) and should take into consideration quality of the service and rapidity of the installation, two elements that can make the difference.

To be implemented within the first days of an emergency, the latrines need to be stored in a significant amount in a country where a toilet rental company is operating. This is not really possible due to the logistical constraint and the financial risk and to rent the latrines to “normal” customers would jeopardize the availability of toilets in the case of a sudden emergency. It would not be recommended to store portable latrines somewhere in the world to be dispatched for the next emergency, considering the volume of storage and number of cubicles. It would be cheaper and faster to have a pre-signed agreement with the rental companies, with clear terms and condition for production and shipping of large quantities of latrines (and desludging equipment) in various “hot spots” where they could potentially be needed: flood prone areas, urban centres, etc. This would also allow humanitarian community to have negotiated prices with the rental company. A price around 10 USD / day / user is competitive with other semi permanent solutions, but can be met only if renting larges quantities of latrine or if a clear agreement is established in advance.

To empty the portable toilets there are two solutions: a vacuum tanker or a desludging pump (self priming diaphragm pump). The first one is acting as a giant vacuum cleaner and can suck up the waste from the tank as well as faeces “accidentally” dropped around the seat. The second one needs to be operated with a tank of fresh water. The operation consist in injecting fresh water in the tank to dissolve the content, and then to pump it. The first system is more tolerant to small objects and stones that may have been drop in the toilets. It needs a specific tanker, which is not always available in country. The second option can be “home made” with a platform truck, a diaphragm pump and two tanks, one for the fresh water and one for the sludge. It is more difficult to operate and less resistant to objects drop in the toilet. For large size projects, the rental company would provide proper vacuum tankers. This is obviously the best option.

Final disposal of the sludge
This is a critical issue. Under normal circumstances the final destination of the sludge should be either a sewer discharge station (SDS) connected to a semi centralized treatment facility (constructed wetlands), or a sedimentation pond / drying bed, to allow proper treatment of the sludge before final disposal safe for environment. Such facilities are not available everywhere: before even thinking about renting portable toilets, one should think about the final destination of the sludge. Once the toilets are installed and used, the service is daily and if there is no dumping site ready before the installation of the latrines consequences can be huge for the environment. The minimum facility, to reduce the environmental risk, would be an isolated field, far enough from houses and water sources, where a large pit is dug to collect the waste.

The Truitier landfill near Cité Soleil. Not exactly the perfect dumping site but there is no other solution so far in Haiti (photo J. Eyrard)

The main constraint faced in Haiti was the quantity of sludge to move: 5 full trucks every day. This was due to the fact that the tanks were collecting faeces and urines. Knowing that an adult produce daily 1.5 litres of urines and 0.5 litres of faeces, Urine Diversion Dry Toilets (UDDT) could be an option to reduce the amount of waste to transport every day if urine can be infiltrated in the soil near the latrine (which is not possible everywhere) or used for farming. Such UDDT are not yet operational for emergencies, but the technology is promising. The best option would to have it compatible with the existing emergency squatting slabs, the KK Nag Magic, for a faster and safer deployment during emergency, in contexts where digging is not possible. Portable latrines are another option, to consider if rental companies can commit themselves to significant amount of cubicles and if safe waste final disposal facilities exist in the country.

Complete paper will be available soon on the WEDC web site.

Research team looking for input

July 15, 2011


We are a research team headed by Dr. Marni Sommer of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and we are conducting a global review of what is being done in emergency settings (post-conflict/post-disaster) around menstrual-hygiene management (MHM).  As there is not a great deal in the literature about this topic, we are hoping to gather information from experts in the field who have first-hand experience of what has been done, or who have recommendations of what should be done.  We very much appreciate your insights into these questions.

1)      In your experience, how often have humanitarian responses included attention to adolescent girls’ and women’s menstrual needs (or only to one group and not the other, if that was the case), and what have these responses included?  (e.g. pads, cloth, underwear, adequate latrines, water, etc.—or only one or two aspects of the MHM needs of girls/women)?

2)      How did the humanitarian response teams assess girls’ and women’s MHM-related needs (pads, cloths, toilets, water)? Did they base their decisions on Sphere or other guidelines? Did they conduct interviews, focus groups, or a survey? Did they use a rapid assessment questionnaire? If so, could you share a copy of the questions with us?

3)       Are there any further written documents—such as reports, assessments, or articles—that you would recommend we follow up with to learn more about the response? (If they are internal or unpublished documents—would it be possible to send a copy to Dr. Sommer?)  Are there any additional organizations or further people to contact that you would recommend we follow up with to learn more about the response?

4)      In your experience, what are some of the gaps or areas for improvement in the humanitarian response to MHM in post-conflict/post-disaster settings?  What would be some of your recommendations for how best to respond to girls’ and women’s MHM-related needs in humanitarian emergencies?

Please feel free to contact Marni Sommer at Columbia University ( if you think of any additional thoughts, experiences, recommendations, or contacts you would like to convey.  Many thanks again for your kind assistance with these questions.

Household UDDTs after a cyclone disaster in Bangladesh

July 11, 2011
This is a case study which was recently published on the SuSanA website about household UDDTs after cyclone disaster, in Padma and Rohitra villages, Barishal Division, Bangladesh


Note how useful the raised latrine is in flooded environments, allowing continued use because it is still accessible and still functioning. It also minimises contamination of the surrounding land and water.

On 15 November 2007, the first storms of what was to become cyclone Sidr hit the southern coastline of Bangladesh. The force destroyed approximately 750,000 homes, tore up trees, damaged or destroyed roads, community centres, clinics and schools and brought down power and communication lines.

In response to cyclone Sidr, the International NGO (INGO) Terre des Hommes Lausanne, which had already been working in Bangladesh, decided to develop and implement a post-rehabilitation project in Barguna District (Barisal Division). The project took place between June 2008 and May 2009 with the main focus being on housing, sanitation and water management systems, and primary health care in particular mother and child health.

In total, 100 families, consisting of 478 people including 233 children, received safe shelter (new houses were built), potable water and appropriate sanitation (UDDTs were the chosen technology in this project). The health services were extended to the wider community and closer links were built with the local authority and the Upazilla Health Complex.

The constructed UDDTs’ robustness was put to the test when on 27 May 2009 Cyclone Aila hit Southern Bangladesh. Alia was categorised as a category 1 cyclone with wind speeds ranging between 74 and 120 km/h. The UDDTs withstood both the winds and the associated flooding that followed the cyclone. Pictures taken shortly after Cyclone Aila are included in the case study.

Find the full case study here.

Find more pictures here.