In this World Toilet Day blog, Neil Jeffery, Chief Executive of Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), looks into the impact of poor wastewater treatment and highlights ways in which cities can improve sanitation management.
When people in the most developed cities flush the toilet, they have the luxury of not having to wonder where the wastewater goes to next.
They know, if they stop to think for a second, that it gets flushed into a sewer, probably running under the main road, joining larger and larger sewers until it ends up in a treatment plant. At this point, water gets treated and ends back – somehow – in the water system.
Maybe, years later, that water will come back to the same house, perhaps to be used in a sink, or shower.
But we don’t need to worry about all this. It just happens, and our sanitation systems works – by and large – in harmony with the wider ecosystem.
It is not so simple, though, in many other countries. The lack of a sewer system outside of central urban areas means that vast quantities of wastewater is simply not treated.
And this, in turn, results in sanitation waste being abundant in urban communities – with a devastating impact on health, dignity, education and economic development.