Sanitation is Namibia’s neglected stepchild

Source: Southern Times

Source: Southern Times

Written by:   Lahja Nashuuta. March 10, 2016

Windhoek, Namibia – Every year on November 19, the global community observes the World Toilet Day, an event designated by the United Nations (UN) to raise awareness about the people in the world who don’t have access to proper toilets, despite the fact that it is a human right to have clean water and sanitation.

According to UN Water, an agency that coordinates the UN’s work on freshwater and sanitation, the World Toilet Day is about the 2.4 billion people who lack access to improved sanitation. It is about the nearly 1 billion people who have to defecate in the open.

The UN says the state of sanitation remains a powerful indicator of the state of human development in any community. It said that improved sanitation also brings advantages for public health, livelihoods and dignity-advantages that extend beyond households to entire communities.

In his statement to observe last year’s World Toilet Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon noted that sanitation is central to human and environmental health as well as to individual opportunity, development and dignity.  But he registered his disappointment that to date, one in every three people lacks improved sanitation, and one in every eight practices open defecation, worldwide.

The Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) 7, target 3, outlined the global ambition to the proportion of people without access to clean drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

But up to the end of last year, there has been no tangible progress by the global community, especially in developing countries like in Africa to provide proper sanitations facilities, which the UN has warned is having negative effects on people’s health, safety, and dignity.

A 2014 progress report by the WaterAid has revealed that majority of governments in Southern African region, like the rest of the continent have failed to deliver on their promises on water and sanitation.

This left over 40 million people in the region without access to safe drinking water and 73 million without sanitation. Botswana and Angola have been rounded for their efforts to half the number of people without access to clean drinking water and sanitation during the implementations of the MDGs.

Justine Eilonga, a resident of Havana informal settlement in Windhoek is one of thousands of Namibians who were let down by their own government, which failed to provide them with basic sanitation facilities.

Although Namibia has met the target for water provision with over 87 percent of the households in the country have access to improved water supply, the target for sanitation was missed dismally.

While most of their country men and women are line-up in banks or in the shops to pay for their goods and services, Eilonga and other residents of Havana in the periphery of Namibia’s main city, Windhoek are queueing up and impatiently waiting for their turns to make use of a single toilet that serves close to a thousand people, irrespective of gender and age.

“We are sharing this one toilet with many people,” she said while pointing to a solitary toilet that was erected by the Windhoek Municipality.

“It’s just unhygienic and unbelievable that people from other informal settlements also track long distances to come use this toilet. I cannot blame them because I am aware that there is not a single toilet there but it is the municipality responsibility to ensure that the inhabitants have access to portable water and toilet facilities,” she said

Eilonga said the situation forces many people to relieve themselves in open, and at night especially women and children are forced to use baskets, which they dispose in the river beds the next morning, a situation which she distribute as undignified. Others especially those that are living in the new informal settlements dig their own traditional latrines.

Helodia Amadhila, also the resident of Havana, who is concerned about using public toilet at night due to especially with regard to security and health issues.

“I suffer a lot when nature calls during the night time because the only available toilet is very far and there are lots of bad people in the area. Although I stay with my two sons, some time they are not in the house and there is no one to escort me, leaving me with no choice but to use a basket which is very unhygienic,” she said.

Simon Nghindini, also a resident of Havana and whose shack is over a kilometer from the nearest public toilet relate a similar story to that of Amadhila, Eilonga and thousands of other Namibians without proper sanitation facilities.

“Most of the time the toilets are not working. This can be explained by a large number of people using the toilets, and municipal officials take their time to come fix them,” he said about a block of 12 toilets that were built by the City of Windhoek to serve the community of Havana.

“We decided to dig our own toilet because there is nowhere to relieve ourselves. This place is overcrowded and open space are scares. It’s a terrible situation we are living in,” Losivite Tuyeni, a resident of Gereagob, while pointing at family toilet her boyfriend has dug for them, a few meters from their corrugated irons house.

Namibia Demographic and Health Survey of 2013 indicated that only 34 percent of the population having access to improved sanitation which is against a target to have reached 66 percent of the population by 2015 as set out in the National Sanitation Strategy.

During the 9th Water and Sanitation Sector Joint Annual Review on February 2, in Windhoek by the government ministries and stakeholders in water and sanitation sector  including the European Union, as development partner, the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry John Mutorwa has acknowledged the country’s failure to provide proper sanitation to the majority of the population.

“Access to water has increased overally, even if sanitation remains – despite our genuine efforts – the neglected stepchild of this country.  The challenge now lies with lack of progress on sanitation with only 34 percent of the population having access to improved sanitation,” he said.

“However, the victims affected by inadequate access to sanitation are as usual are primarily the poor.  The problem of poor access to sanitation is particularly acute in the rural areas where only 17 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities with an alarming rate as high as 46.5 percent of open defecation.   Also equally affected are the informal settlements. The low access to improved sanitation constitutes a serious public-health problem”.

Minister Mutorwa also blamed the poor sanitation standard in urban centers such as Windhoek on the rapid increase in rural to urban migration, saying that the country needed to find urgent solution to the low access of sanitation in informal settlements.

“The disparity of water and sanitation service coverage between urban and rural is cause for concern. We cannot also ignore the rapid rural to urban migration that is going on at an estimated alarming rate of 3.5 percent per annum. This has a major impact on water and sanitation service delivery particularly in urban areas,” said the minister.

Having failed to deliver better sanitation facilities during the past 15 years, Namibia has now set herself a mammoth task to improve access to sanitation from the current 34 percent to 70 percent by 2017.

According to the Sanitation Strategic Plan, a total required budget to implement all initiatives in the plan was N$1.579 billion over the five year period from 2010/11-2014/15, with an average of N$316 million per annum. However, media reports indicate that the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has been sitting on the funds that were a solution to the problem of poor sanitation in the country.

The ministry’s Director of Water Supply and Sanitation Coordination, Theopolina Nantanga gave a lame excuses in an interview with The Villager newspaper in June 2015 that the sanitation project failed to get off the off the ground because of numerous challenges including public education.

Nantanga however explained that the  water  and  sanitation  situation  currently prevailing in  the  country  is  characterised  by  scarce  water resources, poor access to running water in rural areas and a large percentage of the population living in vulnerable conditions in informal settlements.

The City of Windhoek manager for corporate communications, Joshua Amukugo said water and sanitation provisions one of the top priorities issues at the municipality.

“The City of Windhoek sees access to water and improved sanitation as one of the key challenges to the general upliftment of our society, in particular the more vulnerable portion thereof. In this regard the city has expended millions in the provision of water and sanitation facilities throughout the city to those in need and will continue to do so as the organization is fully aware of its social responsibility and is making a real, concerted effort to address all issues at hand,” Amukugo said.

The city official pointed the maintenance of facilities and water shortages as the most pressing challenges. “The maintenance of established sanitation facilities is proving to be by far the biggest challenge. Technical solutions exist in a variety of forms and even funding can be sourced, but sustaining the facility in working order has failed in many instances.

“Given the nature of a sanitation installation and the fact that these toilets are not under care of a single individual or household in many instances lead to these installations being subjected to vandalism, unhygienic usage and even the theft of water.

“The provision of adequate sanitation is a major challenge on its own, however maintaining this has proven almost impossible under the current model.

This is also one of the primary reasons the City of Windhoek has embarked on an extensive process to review the current model of providing sanitation throughout the spectrum of service provision under the mandate of the organization.

“A second and equally important issue that has become overdue and need to be urgently addressed is the ever increasing shortage of water in the central areas of Namibia.

This situation is seriously straining development and impacting on the ability of the City of Windhoek to expand service delivery to all residents.

The Namibian Government should realise the challenge posed by this and ensure that this is resolved sooner rather than later,” he said.

Meanwhile, countries in Southern Africa like Namibia still have a chance to deliver on renewed promises following the adoption by the world leaders of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015.

This agenda includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. The SDGs are built on the MDGs that ended last year. And the universal access to clean drinking water and sanitation is one Sustainable Development Goals.

However it is going to be costly to achieve universal access to water and sanitation by 2030, according to Jean-Philippe Bayon, the coordinator for the UNDP-Global Water Solidarity. In blog post on the UNDP official website, Bayon noted US$ 27 billion are needed annually to provide clean water and sanitation by 2030. He said official development assistance (ODA) may covers approximately one third of the target but 17 billion are still missing.

He believes that local and regional authorities like the City of Windhoek, “can contribute to filling the endemic resource gap that cripples water interventions.

I believe local to local cooperation is an important part of the solution but to make it fully effective we need to improve its modus operandi”.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Southern Times and was retrieved on March 10, 2016 and posted at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, thoughts and contents of the article remains those of the author. Please cite the originally source accordingly.


Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis


Tim Flannery’s new book Atmosphere of Hope highlights innovative solutions to the world’s climate crisis

By Tim Flannery. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 245 pp, hardcover

Runaway climate change has all the characteristics of a disaster movie.

Under the worst-case scenarios, rising sea levels will eventually swallow up coastal cities and island nations. Monstrous storms will transform parts of the North American heartland to rubble. And human beings will congregate closer to the poles to escape blistering heat waves and an onslaught of hellish wildfires farther south.

It has all the earmarks of Armageddon if humanity doesn’t take far more aggressive actions to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. Political leaders will come together to try to address the issue at the UN’s upcoming COP21 climate conference later this year in Paris.

But climate change is also a problem of arithmetic and the best efforts to educate the public about this don’t shy away from the numbers.

Such is the case with Australian scientist Tim Flannery’s remarkable new book, Atmosphere of Hope.

Much of the talk around climate change revolves around keeping the average global temperature from increasing by 2°C since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

This would alleviate the likelihood of more catastrophic climate havoc caused by melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events. (Even an increase of that amount is predicted to be destructive.)

Flannery, on the other hand, focuses much of his book on gigatonnes of carbon dioxide—a gigatonne being a billion tonnes. Last year, human beings were responsible for the release of 40 gigatonnes.

Then Flannery, winner of the SFU’s 2015/16 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue, sets about explaining in clear language what’s required to achieve substantial reductions.

“We should be focusing on reducing emissions by the gigatonne,” he writes. “Frustratingly, the objective of the political negotiations is expressed in degrees Celsius rather than gigatonnes of carbon.”

A mere 10 percent reduction, Flannery explains, would require converting all of the world’s agriculture and forestry waste—plus biomass from 100,000 square kilometres of sugar cane—into biochar. It’s a mineralized form of carbon that can be buried or placed in mines. In some instances, biochar can help agricultural production when mixed with soil.

Biochar is one of several options he puts forth in the book. Another promising approach is the cultivation of carbon-dioxide-consuming seaweed. He cites research by University of South Pacific researchers led by Antoine De Ramon N’Yeurt, who noted that seaweed farms “could be used to absorb CO2 very efficiently, and at a large scale”.

“Their analysis shows that growing seaweed could produce 12 gigatonnes of methane [a heat-trapping greenhouse gas with a shorter lifespan in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide], while storing 19 gigatonnes of CO2 that result from methane production,” Flannery writes. “A further 34 gigatonnes per year of CO2 could be captured if the methane is burned to generate electricity.”

Flannery’s two previous books, The Weather Makers and Here on Earth, put him in the top echelon of climate-change educators.

Atmosphere of Hope offers more concrete solutions than the previous two titles, in part because of all the technological advances taking place. But he doesn’t sugar-coat the magnitude of the problem. In fact, it becomes starker when reduced to the language of gigatonnes.

For instance, the book reveals how a roofing company called Derbigum has created a product with a layer of olivine, which is a mineral from deep within the Earth. It “reacts with rainwater to remove and permanently store atmospheric CO2”, Flannery reports.

Unfortunately, massive amounts of olivine are needed to sequester a gigatonne of carbon. But Flannery notes that there are many other ways to make use of olivine to help tackle the climate crisis.

“It’s even been proposed that olivine-based carbon-capture devices be installed on ships,” he writes. “Located in the exhaust of the ship’s engines, they would capture the CO2 emitted and turn it into a carbonate that, if released into the ocean, could lead to the sequestration of additional amounts of CO2 from seawater.”

Limestone can also absorb carbon, but Flannery points out that this comes at a high price: US$79-$159 per tonne. This is why he argues for government incentives for those who want to do this, not to mention the need for more research and development to lower the cost.

Atmosphere of Hope also includes some enlightening information about the storage of carbon dioxide. Enormous sums of money have been spent investigating land-based carbon-capture technology, but perhaps the greatest potential lies in the ocean crust.

Flannery emphasizes that if carbon dioxide is stored below 3,000 metres of water, it is converted into stable hydrates. This results in it being permanently locked into the rock.

But steep topography must be avoided, he cautions, because of the risk of underwater landslides, which could cause tsunamis.

“Although not all regions of the oceans deeper than 3,000 metres are suitable for the storage of CO2, the potential scale of this approach is large,” he writes.

The book also reports on the growing use of solar energy, the challenges posed by nuclear power, and how citizens concerned about climate change are putting politicians on the defensive. Even though some of the information is highly technical, Flannery conveys it in a readable form that’s hard to put down.

There are even a couple of nuggets about B.C. included within Atmosphere of Hope. One section explores how the Haida First Nation tried fertilizing the ocean with iron to stimulate the growth of plankton to revive failing salmon stocks.

Flannery acknowledges that this violated the Convention on Biological Diversity while still offering a nuanced view of the experiment.

He also reveals in his book that then B.C. premier Gordon Campbell told him that the provincial carbon tax was introduced after Campbell had read Flannery’s The Weather Makers.

It remains to be seen whether Atmosphere of Hope will have a similar impact on the current premier, Christy Clark. Judging by her government’s eagerness to promote the fracking of natural gas, we probably shouldn’t be holding our breath in anticipation of any miracles.

Tim Flannery will discuss global climate issues at the Vancouver Playhouse on Wednesday (October 14). Tickets are available through Tickets Tonight for $20 and $15 for seniors, youths, and students.

This article was published by and was retrieved on 10/14/2015 and posted here for information and educational purposes.

From sewage sludge to syngas and biochar: new perspectives for small municipalities

Dr. Olivier Lepez, coordinator of PYROCHAR, explains how the project team has developed an energy- and cost-efficient process to thermo-chemically convert municipal sewage sludge into useful biochar and synthetic gas.

From sewage sludge to syngas and biochar: new perspectives for small municipalities

Sewage sludge production from European wastewater treatment plants keeps increasing and, despite the organic matter and nutrients it contains, often ends up in landfills or incinerators. The PYROCHAR project has developed a technology that will enable the valorisation of this sludge in communities of less than 10 000 people — all this for a much lower cost than landfilling and incineration.

With soil degradation threatening arable lands across Europe and the EU increasingly looking into ways to valorise the sewage sludge produced by wastewater treatment plants, a solution to produce soil amendment from sewage sludge to the benefit of farmers would come in quite handy.

Now suppose you are part of a small community with no sewage sludge treatment plant anywhere close. Getting the sludge to the closest incinerator will likely turn out to be too expensive, and landfilling is less and less of an option for environmentally aware citizens and EU authorities alike. In such a scenario, the need for an alternative is even more pressing.

The PYROCHAR (PYROlysis based process to convert small WWTP sewage sludge into useful bioCHAR) project could be exactly what municipalities of less than 10 000 inhabitants have been looking for. Since 2013, the project has been developing an energy- and cost-efficient process to thermo-chemically convert municipal sewage sludge into useful biochar (charcoal from pyrolysis treatment) and synthetic gas (syngas).

Dr. Olivier Lepez, President and CEO of ETIA and coordinator of the PYROCHAR process, explains how this technology will address the current problem of small municipalities in managing their increasing amount of sewage sludge, while potentially providing farmers with a costless solution for land spreading.

What are, according to you, the main problems faced by small communities when it comes to sludge treatment plants?

Small communities with a population of 10 000 people or equivalent are often faced with the issue of sludge incineration plants being located quite far away, which means it costs a lot of money to transport the sludge and incinerate it. So these communities often resort to landfilling which is increasingly becoming a problematic option. Actually many countries already banned landfilling.

Helping these communities find an alternative to landfilling or costly incineration is a major issue. In France for instance we have roughly 18 000 water treatment plants, approximately 93 % of which are used by small communities of 10 000 or less inhabitants.

How does the PYROCHAR technology help solve this problem?

PYROCHAR technology is a full-fledged technology. Usually water treatment plants produce sludge which is then processed in a centrifuge. This results is a sludge with roughly 80% of moisture and 20% of dry matter, which is actually the only resulting feedstock.
In PYROCHAR however drying the sludge is only the first step. In 10 000 people or equivalent communities, the average flow rate is roughly 100 kw/h of wet sludge. This goes into a dryer so as to obtain 20 to 22 kg of dry matter, and the latter goes through a high pyrolysis process to help us quantify it. Around 50% of this sludge is turned into a syngas with a quality value of roughly 17 megajoules per cubic litre. Then, this gas is combusted to produce steam and supply the energy needed for the dryer. On the other hand we also produce a BIOCHAR which depending on the pollutants it contains can potentially be valorised into soil amendment or solid fuel.

Are there other options to valorise the syngas and biochar produced by the PYROCHAR technology?

There are two possibilities for the syngas. Apart from producing steam for the dryer, we can also use the syngas to feed a gas engine from which we produce electricity if the customer already has its own source of energy for the dryer.
For the biochar it depends on the pollutant. Sewage sludge can be polluted by heavy metals, pharmaceuticals or chemical products. Although the pyrolysis process allows us to create a biochar that is absolutely sterile (no odour, no pathogens) and where all organic molecules have disappeared, it may still contain some remains of heavy metals. In such scenario the biochar cannot be used for agriculture but it can be combusted: it still has a quality value of about 10 to 15 megajoules per kilogram.
Now in the case of small communities, which generally do not have industries connected to the waste water treatment plant, the sludge will most likely not be polluted by heavy metals so the biochar can make a very good fertilizer or soil amendment.

Would it affordable for small communities to adopt this kind technology?

One of our targets is to reach a competitive price. We want to provide a solution which costs roughly 50 to 60 euros per tonne of wet sludge. Today landfilling costs between 60 to 80 euros per tonne and incineration costs from 100 to 200 euros per tonne depending on the country.

How do you see your technology being of use to farmers? Would they have to pay to get this biochar?

It could be a great social action for the municipality to provide its farmers with the opportunity to use the biochar for their own farms, be it for free or under a negotiated price. Now this decision depends on the business model and the economic viability of the system. If the only other alternative for the community is to go for incineration at 200 euros per tonne, of course you have quite a considerable margin that makes it realistic to offer the biochar to farmers. If, on the other hand, the delta of current and potential price is much lower, then the community may have to put a price tag on this biochar.

Where do you stand with the development of the prototype?

We have almost completed all tasks foreseen under the work packages. The only thing that is left to be demonstrated is the gas engine connected to the syngas. We have already conducted tests on dryers and on high temperature pyrolysis, we have already made analysis on the syngas and the biochar. Now we have to connect all the components, which will be done in August-September. Finally we will conduct the final tests including the gas engine in September-October.

Have you witnessed any interest from small communities so far?

We did not start to promote the process and will not do so until we have enough data but we are starting to witness some interest from small communities. Dissemination activities will start in October and they should tell us much more about the commercial potential of our technology.

What would be your plans after the project ends?

The idea if everything works as expected is to make a larger scale demo plant and to try to prepare a programme for industrialisation and commercialisation. We would like to apply for Horizon 2020 funding but only with a complete prototype that has already been validated.

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Source: Interview from issue 45 of research*eu results magazine, page 6.


Article Source: Retrieved: 08/27/2015

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