Development of a Sustainability-based Sanitation Planning Tool (SusTA) for Developing Countries

Background and Research Goal Despite all the efforts in the sanitation sector, it is acknowledged that the world is not on track to meet the MDG sanitation target to reduce the number of people without access to sanitation by 2015. Furthermore, a large number of existing sanitation facilities in developing countries is out of order. This leads to the conclusion that, besides technical failures, the planning process in the sanitation sector was ineffective. This ineffectiveness may be attributed to the lack of knowledge of the sanitation planners about the local conditions of the sanitation project. In addition, sustainability of a technology is often approached from a fragmented perspective that often leads to an unsustainable solution. The dissertation is conducted within the framework of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Indonesia project. The goal of this work is to contribute to the development of a methodology of a planning tool for sustainable sanitation technology. The tool is designed for sanitation planners in developing countries, where a top-down planning approach is common practice. The proposed tool enables comprehensive sustainability assessments (using the Helmholtz Concept of Sustainability as reference), taking into account local conditions. State of the Science In the planning practice, many sanitation planning tools focus on technology selection. However, it has become evident that the selection criteria for sustainable technologies are not always considered in the tools’ framework. In other cases, when the criteria are provided by the tool, there is no clear indication of the conditions to be fulfilled in order to meet these criteria. Specifically, there is no reference to what is meant by sustainable technology in a particular context and how to comprehensively assess the sustainability of different technology options. Research Methodology Developing a planning tool is an empirical process, combining theory and practical experience. Hence, the development process of such a tool requires extensive observations, particularly on the interaction between stakeholders in the sanitation sector as well as between technology and its environment. For this purpose, a case study within the project area was carried out. Pucanganom, a village representing common strategic problems in developing countries (e.g. top-down planning approaches, lack of involvement of beneficiaries in the planning process, lack of sustainability assessments) was finally selected as the case study area. After the in-depth case study, an analytical generalisation was developed to enable the tool’s application to a broader context. Results The result of this research is a new tool – the Sustainability-based Sanitation Planning Tool (SusTA). SusTA enables comprehensive sustainability assessment in its five generic steps, namely: (1) analysis of stakeholders and sanitation policy in the region, (2) distance-to-target analysis on sanitation conditions in the region, (3) examination of physical and socio-economic conditions in the project area, (4) contextualisation of the technology assessment process in the project area, and (5) sustainability-oriented technology assessment at the project level. These steps are conducted at two levels of planning – the region and the project area – in order to identify the specific problems and interests which influence the selection of a sanitation system. Each planning step is equipped with tool elements (e.g. set of indicators, household questionnaires, technology assessment matrices) to support the analysis. From the development of SusTA, it can be concluded that four elements are required for an effective and widely applicable sanitation planning tool: sustainability concept, participatory approach, contextualisation framework and modification framework. SusTA provides both a theoretical and a practical basis for assessing the sustainability of sanitation technologies in developing countries. The tool’s main advantages for decision makers in these countries are: It is simple and transparent in its steps, does not require vast amounts of data and does not need a sophisticated computer program.


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