Proper sanitation promotes health, improves the quality of the environment and thus, the quality of life in a community. Sanitation refers to the safe collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of human wastes. In developing countries, improvements in practices of disposing of human excreta are crucial to raising levels of public health. An increasing amount of literature suggests that health problems result from the lack of sanitation facilities, especially among the urban poor living in overcrowded informal settlements. Invariably, it is the poor who suffer the most from the absence of safe water and sanitation because they lack not only the means to provide such facilities but also the information on how to minimize the ill-effects of the unsanitary conditions in which they live.(1) As a result, the negative effects of unsanitary living conditions lower the productive potential of the people who can least afford it.
In industrialized nations, the conventional waterborne-sewerage is the usual method for the disposal of human waste and wastewater. For this system to function successfully, a huge amount of capital for investment and a large amount of water must be available. In poorer countries, where funds are limited and where water is less accessible, the application of the sewerage system is not usually feasible.
Early in the mid-1970s, international agencies and national governments identified alternative low-cost sanitation technologies that could be adequately applied in rural and low to medium density urban settlements.(2) The search for alternatives has been partly motivated by the need for an incremental approach to sanitation that is perceived as economic since very few cities in developing countries have the resources to build a complete sewerage system for the entire population in one construction project.(3) There have been developments in modifying the various technologies with the goal of making them simpler in installation, use and maintenance, and in eliminating or reducing the handling of fresh excreta. By far, there are over twenty generic types of systems for human waste disposal offering different degrees of user convenience, protection against the spread of diseases and water demand for their operation.(4)
In some poor communities in developing countries, an inadequate excreta disposal system is rarely considered a problem by the people. In rural areas, people seek to dispose of their excreta as cheaply as possible; and in those areas where population density is low, this activity is carried out without any large investments in waste disposal systems.(5) In the absence of sanitation systems, some communities rely on natural processes; defecation takes place in the open fields or on surface waters. In the latter option, human waste is directly disposed of into the rivers, canals and sea for transport and eventual dilution, or in the tidal mudflat to await the tide. This is one of the few options left for poor communities in developing countries, occupying coastal, waterfront and low-lying areas. Such communities are located along the seacoasts, on marshlands, on riverbanks and most often built above the surface water.
The proliferation of communities along the coastal fringes and low-lying areas can be attributed to economic, social and cultural reasons. Some cities are located along coasts or riverbanks, where rivers or canals play a vital role in the transportation of people, goods and services. In most urban areas, marshlands, swamps and other low-lying areas are cheap sites for settlement of the urban poor. In rural communities engaged in fishing, it is necessary for them to settle along the seacoast or above the sea.
The disposal of untreated human waste into water or tidal mudflats, practiced in most coastal and waterfront communities, is satisfactory from the public health point of view, if the water is saline enough to prevent its use for drinking, if the feces are always deposited into the waters and not on land, and if there is sufficient current for dilution.(6) However, these criteria are not always observed. The rivers, lakes and bays over which these communities are built are often the people's source of food and water for drinking, domestic and personal cleaning.(7)
Studies on the health aspects of sanitation show that water and human wastes are major factors in the transmission of more serious types of diseases in the developing world.(8) There are 20 to 30 different communicable water-related diseases. These diseases are classified according to the mode of spread: first, water-borne diseases which are infections spread through water-supplies; 2) water-washed diseases which are due to the lack of water for personal hygiene; 3) water-based diseases which are infections through aquatic invertebrate animals; 4) water-related insect vectors.(9) Excreta, both feces and urine, contain an array of pathogenic viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths and are principal vehicle for the transmission and spread of a wide range of communicable diseases.(10) Sanitary disposal of human waste is necessary for the following reasons: to eliminate the causative agents of those water and excreta-related diseases; to convert waste into readily re-usable resources and so conserve both water and nutrients; and to prevent the pollution of any body of water (ground water or surface water) to which the effluent escapes after re-use or into which it is discharged without re-use.(11) The organic pollution of water is especially undesirable as it interferes with the use of water for drinking and other domestic, industrial or agricultural purposes; it interferes with aquatic life and it may drastically disrupt the ecology of the surrounding area.(12)
In communities where there is constant contact with the polluted environment, sanitation is an important concern. As these communities continue to grow and practice the unsanitary means of waste disposal, their presence in these coastal and waterfront areas can pose harm to themselves and to their environment. Therefore,the proper collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of human excreta are crucial in the protection of community health and in the improvement of their environment.
1.1 Thesis Rationale
This thesis focuses on improving sanitation in coastal and waterfront communities and communities in low-lying areas. In these communities, health and environmental problems are attributed to the lack of sanitary means of disposing of human waste. This assumption raises the following issues: How can human waste be properly and safely disposed of in coastal and waterfront communities? Among the available low-cost sanitation systems identified for developing countries, are there systems appropriate for these communities? Which have been used in these communities? What are the problems met in their application? If there are no appropriate systems, what are the limiting factors? What are the guiding factors to determine the appropriate system for these communities?
In determining the appropriate low-cost sanitation systems for any community, World Bank studies on appropriate technology for water supply and sanitation developed a program for sanitation planning. This program is the process by which the most appropriate sanitation technology is identified, designed and implemented.(13) In this context, appropriate technology is considered as that which provides the most socially and environmentally acceptable level of service at the most economic cost. More recent studies on actual sanitation projects show that sanitation is more than simply a technical and economic approach. There is an element of deep-rooted cultural values that needs to be addressed in the process.(14) In the case of the coastal communities, what specifically are these environmental, social and economic factors influencing the selection of sanitation systems? How are these factors to be determined?
1.2 Goals and Objectives of the Thesis
This thesis attempts to contribute to the process of selecting appropriate low-cost sanitation systems for low-income coastal and waterfront communities. The goal of this study is to analyze their sanitation and environmental conditions to be able to identify the essential factors in the provision of sanitation systems in these communities.
The main objectives of the study are as follows:
1. To analyze sanitation and environmental conditions in low-income communities located on coastal, waterfront and low-lying areas;
2. To determine what sanitation systems have been used in these communities and identify problems associated with their application;
3. To study a prototypical coastal community and be able to define sanitation and environmental problems comprehensively;
4. To identify key considerations in the provision of sanitation systems in the case study;
1.3 Research Methodology
The methodology used for this research includes the literature review and field survey as a primary resource data. The various tasks involved in the research include the following:
Task 1: Literature review of low-income communities located on waterfront, coastal and low-lying areas with emphasis on developing countries to develop a general scenario of sanitation and environmental conditions in these communities.
Task 2: Literature review of low-cost sanitation systems and community sanitation planning.
Task 3: Preparation for field survey for the case study
Task 4: Field survey in the coastal communities of Puerto Princesa, Palawan Province, Philippines as a source of primary data. The detailed methodology for this task is discussed in Chapter 4.
Task 5: Analysis of data from the field survey.This task involves the analysis of sanitation and environmental conditions in the case study and the identification of key considerations for the provision of sanitation systems for the community.
Task 6: Synthesis of data from literature review and field survey. This task involves the analysis of the potentials and limitation of the sanitation systems reviewed based on the derived factors from findings of the case study.
Task 7: Final conclusions and recommendations
1.4 Scope and Limitations of the Study
The scope of analysis of sanitation is not limited to the operational definition of proper disposal of human waste and the construction of latrines. The study encompasses other elements such as water supply, disposal of wastewater and solid waste, community hygiene and health, and environmental conditions. It is beyond the scope of this study to recommend the most appropriate technology for the coastal community analyzed since detailed economic analysis and institutional requirements are not included in the research. The study is limited to the preliminary stage of the selection process that involves the identification of problems related to environmental, technical, social, cultural, and health aspects of the community. It focuses on the selection process involved and the issues relevant to the provision of sanitation systems for the community. Since specific findings are based on the case study, it must not be assumed that they are applicable in other coastal communities. Only general recommendations are provided in the larger context.
1.5 Organization of the Thesis
The thesis comprises seven chapters. The second chapter gives an overview of the sanitation and environmental conditions in coastal communities based on the literature review. It discusses the environment of these communities, why they have settled in such areas and sanitation and environmental problems met. The third chapter focuses on interventions done to solve sanitation conditions in the communities discussed in the previous chapter by identifying the sanitation systems introduced and implemented. It determines if the systems used were as effective as they were envisioned. The fourth chapter introduces the case study-the coastal communities of Puerto Princesa, Palawan Province, Philippines- and discusses in detail the research methodology used to analyze the community. The fifth chapter presents the result of the case study by discussing existing sanitation problems and the significant implications on the health of the community and on the environment. Based on these results, essential factors to be considered in the provision of sanitation systems are identified in Chapter 6. These factors are used to analyze the various low-cost sanitation systems. The last chapter summarizes the findings of the study, both from the literature review and the case study, and presents the recommendations.
2. Gehan Sinnatamby, "Low Cost Sanitation" in The Poor Die Young: Housing and Health in Third World Countries, eds., Sandy Cairncross, Jorge E. Hardoy and David Satterthwaite, (London: Earthscan Publisher Limited, 1990), p.132.
6. Michael G. McGarry, "Waste Collection in Hot Climates: A Technical and Economic Appraisal" in Water, Waste and Health in Hot Climates, eds. Richard Feacham, Michael McGarry and Duncan Mara, (London: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 1977), p.247-248.
9. David J. Bradley, "Health Aspects of Water Supplies in Tropical Countries" in Water, Waste and Health in Hot Climates, eds. Richard Feacham, Michael McGarry and Duncan Mara, (London: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 1977), p.6-7.
11. Duncan D. Mara, "Wastewater Treatment in Hot Climates" in Water, Waste and Health in Hot Climates, eds. Richard Feacham, Michael McGarry and Duncan Mara, (London: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 1977), p. 265.
14. May Yacoob, Barri Brady and Lynda Edwards, Rethinking Sanitation: Adding Behavioral Change to the Project Mix, WASH Technical Report No. 72, Prepared for the Office of Health, Bureau for Research and Development, Under the WASH Task No. 063, (Washington D.C.: World Bank, 1992), p.v.