Sanitation in Informal Settlements

This research focusses on an emerging off-grid sanitation option in the form of container-based sanitation (CBS) across four city contexts where the provision and regulation of CBS is done by different organisations. In Cap Haitian (Haiti), CBS is provided by an NGO, in Lima (Peru) it is provided by a private company, in Cape Town (South Africa) it is provided by the municipality and in Kakuma Refugee camp (Kenya) it is provided by a private company working with an NGO.

To protect human health and the environment, sanitation systems must separate people from their excreta and treat it. This does not just involve technologies but other aspects like finance, government policies and human behaviours must be considered. Sewers and wastewater treatment plants can assist in providing safe sanitation, but they are expensive and challenging to build, particularly in dense urban areas or where people do not own the land that they live on. In fact, only 45% of the world’s urban population have safely managed sanitation; that is where human waste is treated before disposal. Residents are instead using off-grid options for sanitation, such as pit latrines and septic tanks. These are physically difficult to empty, especially in areas of high population density, on steep slopes or with a high water table, and pose significant health hazards. The collected waste is often dumped illegally, frequently into water sources. Off grid solutions can only manage waste safely if the waste collection, treatment and disposal is properly considered.


Five key research themes

This research address five key themes:
1. Investigate to what extent institutional, legal and regulatory contexts enable the sustainability of CBS business models.
2. Determine if the designs of CBS services are inclusive or increase disparities within and between vulnerable groups and individuals?
3. Measure how off-grid services like CBS impact the mental well-being of users.
4. Understand how CBS links with other urban services, e.g. water, food and solid waste, and the interactions between them.
5. Build a model for the improvement of other non-sanitation services to cities’ most marginalised populations?