Who Needs a Sewer?

During my first trip to a third-world country (Egypt in 2002), I was fascinated to see how they were modernizing.  The best example was they were adopting cell phones, thus skipping land lines.  In effect, they were leaping over an entire iteration of technology.

I thought of this while reading an article about how an estimated 80 percent of human waste worldwide goes untreated, and how the solution may be a totally different approach from the developed world.  This approach may be gleaned from the title, “Why Cities Are Starting to Shun Sewers” by Alia Dharssi (http://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/why-cities-are-starting-to-shun-sewers/83955?, the photo is from this site). 

This is a huge problem for an underdeveloped country like India, where cities dump 70 percent of their sewage untreated into the environment.  That’s why a nonprofit, CDD Society (http://www.cddindia.org/), has built a citywide treatment plant which turns human waste into compost with no electricity and no connection to a sewer.  The plant serves 30,000 people on the outskirts of Bangalore and was built in 2015 at a cost of $94,000.  It’s been so successful that more than a dozen cities have commissioned similar projects.

These systems are the epitome of decentralization.  They rely on trucks to transport waste.  In Haiti, an organization named Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL, https://www.oursoil.org/) provides toilets to the poor.  Trucks are used to pick up and replace cartridges of waste from these toilets and deliver them to a treatment plant to be turned into fertilizer.

This seems the perfect approach for the third world, and a great example of finding new, circumstance-appropriate solutions for age-old problems.



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