Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has made notable improvements in sanitation access and reforms
Access to adequate sanitation is fundamental to personal dignity and security, social and psychological well-being, public health, poverty reduction, gender equality, economic development and environmental sustainability. Poor sanitation promotes the spread of preventable diseases like diarrhoea and cholera, places stress on the weakened immune system of HIV positive people and has a major impact on the quality of life of people living with AIDS. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), improved sanitation reduces diarrhoea death rates by a third, encourages children, particularly girls, to stay in school, and has persuasive economic benefits. Every US$1 invested in improved sanitation, translates into an average return of US$9.24
Water supply and sanitation in South Africa is characterised by both achievements and challenges. After the end of Apartheid South Africa’s newly elected government struggled with the then growing service and backlogs with respect to access to water supply and sanitation developed. The government thus made a strong commitment to high service standards and to high levels of investment subsidies to achieve those standards. Since then, the country has made some notable progress with regard to improving access to water supply and sanitation: It reached universal access to an improved water source in urban areas, and in rural areas the share of those with access increased from 66% to 79% from 1990 to 2010.
In 2003 responsibilities for service provision of sanitation were devolved to local government in line with the constitutional allocation of functions. Although much has been achieved, significant challenges remain. There is a need to build and sustain capacity at the local government level to continue to invest in, operate, and maintain services; to innovate and create more effective delivery pathways to reach the “hard to reach”; and, to improve the sustainability of services already delivered.
Sanitation Statistics of South Africa
The total number of people in South Africa with access to “improved” sanitation was 18 million in 2015.This means that 86% of the total population had access to improved sanitation in that year.
According to Statistics South Africa, access is higher, partially because it includes shared facilities in its definition of sanitation. According to the 2011 census figures, access to sanitation increased from 83% in 2001 to 91% in 2011, including shared and individual pit latrines as well as chemical toilets. The share of households with access to flush toilets increased from 53% in 2001 to 60% in 2011. The health impacts of inadequate sanitation can be serious, as evidenced by the estimated 1.5 million cases of diarrhoea in children under five and the 2001 outbreak of cholera. While most coliforms are harmless to human health, the presence of E. coli, which covers approximately 97% of coliform bacteria found in the intestines of animals and in faeces, underlines the presence of more harmful pathogens in the water system
History of Sanitation
During Apartheid, the national government had no role in providing public water or sanitation services.
The history of the water supply and sanitation sector since the end of Apartheid has been characterised by a strong government commitment to increase access to services and a gradual reduction of the role of Water Boards and the national government in service provision.
In 1994, the first post-Apartheid government assigned the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry the task of ensuring that all South Africans would have “equitable access to water supply and sanitation”. To that end, the Community Water Supply and Sanitation Program was created to target key areas for instituting water and sanitation systems, and the National Sanitation Program was established to increase the rate of distribution of water and sanitation services.
The passing of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa in 1996 created a new, constitutional dispensation with a guaranteed Bill of Rights. Among those rights are the section 24(a) right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being, and the section 27(1)(b) right to sufficient water.
The government also created new policies such as the Water Services Act, the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) of 1998, and the National Water Act (NWA) of 1998 in order to target water
National Sanitation Strategy
Bucket Eradication Programme and Free Basic Sanitation Implementation Strategy.
In February 2005 the government launched a programme to eradicate the use of bucket toilets. Bucket toilets consist of a bucket placed under a toilet seat; in formally established settlements the buckets are emptied on a daily basis by the municipality and the content is brought to a sewage treatment plant. However, buckets are also used in newly established informal settlements. There were 250,000 bucket toilets in formally established settlements as of 2005. There was a strong political will to carry out the program. As of March 2008, 91% of the bucket toilets were replaced by flush toilets or Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines where water was not readily available.
The South African Bucket Toilet
A bucket toilet is a basic form of a dry toilet whereby a bucket (pail) is used to collect excreta. Usually, feces and urine are collected together in the same bucket, leading to odor issues. The bucket may be situated inside a dwelling, or in a nearby small structure.
In South Africa, bucket toilet frequently referred to as the “bucket system” - are still used in 2016 in some low-income communities as a relic of the Apartheid era. During that era, the poor, predominantly black townships generally did not get proper sanitation. The term “bucket toilet” or “bucket system” is nowadays very much stigmatized in South Africa and politically charged. Protests against bucket toilets are still occurring. As of 2012, 5.3 percent of households in South Africa either had no toilets, or used bucket toilets.
The South African government set up a bucket eradication programme in order to eradicate all pre-1994 sanitation buckets from the formal townships and replace them with sanitary sewers and other sanitation systems. According to the Department of Water Affairs & Forestry, in 2005 the bucket sanitation backlog in formal townships was estimated at 252,254 bucket toilets. In 2009, the majority of the pre-1994 buckets were eradicated. However, this change has not been completed throughout the country. In 2013 the use of bucket systems was still common in the Free State, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces.
Innovation In Sanitation
Urine-diverting dry toilet
A urine-diverting dry toilet (UDDT) is a type of dry toilet with urine diversionthat can be used to provide safe, affordable sanitation in a variety of contexts worldwide. Through the separate collection of feces and urine without any flush water, many advantages can be realized, such as odor-free operation and pathogen reduction by drying. While dried feces and urine harvested from UDDTs can be and routinely are used in agriculture (respectively, as a soil amender and nutrient-rich fertilizer—this practice being known as reuse of excreta in agriculture), many UDDTs installations do not make use of any sort of recovery scheme. The UDDT is an example of a technology that can be used to achieve a sustainable sanitation system. This dry excreta management system (or “dry sanitation” system) is an alternative to pit latrines and flush toilets, especially where water is scarce, a connection to a sewer system and centralized wastewater treatment plant is not feasible or desired, fertilizer and soil conditioner are needed for agriculture, or groundwater pollution should be minimized.
There are several types of UDDTs: the single vault type which has only one feces vault; the double vault type which has two feces vaults that are used alternately; and the mobile or portable UDDTs which are a variation of the single vault type and are commercially manufactured or homemade from simple materials. A UDDT can be configured as a sitting toilet (with a urine diversion pedestal or bench) or as a squatting toilet (with a urine diversion squatting pan). The most important design elements of the UDDT are: source separation of urine and feces; waterless operation; and ventilated vaults (also called “chambers”) or removable containers for feces storage and treatment. If anal cleansing takes place with water (i.e., the users are “washers” rather than “wipers”), then this anal cleansing water must be drained separately and not be allowed to enter the feces vault.
Ventilated Improved Pit Latrine
Ventilated Improved Pit Latrine (VIP) A Ventilated Improved Pit Latrine (VIP) is a dry on-site sanitation system consisting of a wellventilated top-structure (with a ventilation pipe and fly screen) built over a pit in which organic material decomposes and is emptied approximately every five years. In some cases, two pits are dug and when one is full, it is sealed and the other used until such time as the first pit can be emptied 14 Ibid 14-15. For analysis of findings from case studies of UD toilets, see Still et al “Basic Sanitation Services in South Africa” 89-107. 15 Mjoli N “Review of Sanitation Policy and Practice in South Africa from 2001-2008” Report to the Water Research Commission (March 2010) 13. and reused. VIPS are appropriate in water-scarce and less densely populated areas. O/M is usually the responsibility of the local authority and consists of mechanical pit-emptying, sludge transfer, treatment and disposal. However, most municipalities do not have O/M plans for VIPs, nor have budgets for the emptying of full VIPs.16 VIPS can be upgraded to other sanitation technology types. Usually this involves the closure of the pit, reuse of top-structure with the removal of the pedestal and refitting with a flush-type, additional plumbing, drainage system and facilities for the treatment and disposal of waste.
The New Improved Concept (NIC) toilet is a portable, freestanding toilet ideal for underground mines. It operates without cables, pipes or connections to water or electricity.
The New Improved Concept (NIC) toilet is a portable toilet unit that is freestanding with a self-contained water supply which operates without cables, pipes or connections to water or electricity. They can be commissioned in underground mines and have low-combustibility properties. The NIC toilets are affordable and provide increased dignity for users and the service provider who cleans and maintains them.
This waterless sanitation and bio-energy solution was designed for rural areas and temporary settlements with little to no access to adequate sanitation facilities. The SavvyLoo was engineered to be a competitive alternative to waterborne sanitation, pit latrines, and chemical and composting toilets – it is a more hygienic alternative to the others and the waste output can be converted to energy. Importantly, the SavvyLoo is easy to install and relocate, so it can be easily transported to remote communities where toilets are most needed.
Eliminating the need for water is a big positive factor for this system because many communities across Africa already struggle for clean water access. There is also an improved safety aspect – women and girls are often at risk of harassment when toilets are unavailable and they have to search for privacy, but the ease-of-use of this inexpensive solution makes it easier to have safer toilets available where they are most needed. Already, the SavvyLoo is used extensively in Southern Africa and Kenya with plans to extend its use across the continent soon.
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