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TitleEcosan in poor urban areas : sustaining sanitation and food security
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsBracken, P, Panesar, AR
Pagination11 p. : 4 fig.
Date Published2008-11-19
Place PublishedDelft, The Netherlands
Keywordsecological sanitation, ecology, ecosystems, excreta, excreta collection, excreta disposal systems, excreta treatment, food, food hygiene, human excreta, linear programming, nutrients

The majority of people on the planet now live in urban areas. These are now the centres of global population growth. The current urban population of 3.3 billion is expected to reach 5 billion by 2030 (60% of the global population), with almost all those being born in developing countries. This urbanisation of the global population is equally an urbanisation of poverty. By 2035, 50% of the world’s poor will live in urban areas. From a sanitation point of view, cities concentrate huge volumes of excreta in a limited area. They also serve to concentrate the nutrients from vast areas of farmland into the same limited area. For the urban poor in particular these accumulations are a major problem. Living in proximity to excreta as a result of poor or no sanitation is having catastrophic health consequences. Sending nutrients on a one-way trip from fields into cities makes the production and use of increasing volumes of chemical fertiliser necessary. This year alone fertiliser prices have increased up to five-fold. Whilst conventional sanitation systems have improved the public health situation in the cities that can afford them, they have failed to reach the poorest, drained economies, squandered resources, broken nutrient cycles and impoverished soils. Over the last decade sanitation practitioners and researchers have been working on modern sanitation systems that address these problems. The approaches that have been developed are usually considered under the term ecological sanitation (ecosan) and are based on an overall view of material flows as part of a sustainable wastewater management system tailored to meet the needs of the users and local conditions. Hundreds of different eco-sanitation systems are now in operation around the world. In recent years systems have been upscaled to cover thousands of households. Two of the hundreds of projects now underway are presented to illustrate the benefit to the urban poor offered by affordable eco-sanitation alternatives that bring the double benefits of health protection and improved agricultural production, and the importance of functioning local authorities in getting these systems applied at city level. (authors abstract)

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