Nepal WASH Blog Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) & Development in Nepal

December 20, 2010

No MDGs without toilets

Filed under: Ashu's WASH Mondays,MDG,Sanitation — Tags: , , — Ashutosh Tiwari @ 3:45 pm

Since my previous job was in the private sector, I am often asked about the differences between the private sector and the development sector. In the former, goals are narrower and sharper: meet the quarterly sales targets, beat the competition, show profits for growth, and the like.

For a firm, the metrics and the consequences have to move in the same direction. Else, if you do not sell enough, you will not be able to pay your employees; and, if you cannot pay your employees, your production halts, and that means you cannot make sales, etc.

In the development sector, however, goals are loftier, more vague and sometimes come with an overtone of moral superiority (which is not a bad thing!). The goals are also diffused: reduce poverty, make poor people’s health better, raise employment levels, and so on. In development, the metrics and the consequences can move in opposite directions: for instance, if poverty is not reduced, then, more money is lobbed at the problem.

Indeed, there has been much criticism of the development sector for not having agreed-upon sharper, clearer and measurable goals to reduce poverty, and only throwing money after money at a particular problem.

Happily, much of that vagueness was in the past. Thanks to better monitoring tools and methods, and to donors’ insistence, things are clearer than they used to be, though development debates are still going on as to what to measure and how.

In 2000, after several years of discussions, world leaders adopted what has been called Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These are “eight time-bound global and local targets on income poverty, hunger, maternal and child mortality, disease, inadequate shelter, gender inequality, and environmental degradation”.

The targets are set to be achieved by developing countries, including Nepal, by 2015. To that end, for the last 10 years, most development institutions in Nepal, including WaterAid, have recast their work as contributions to meeting the national MDGs.

Now that the third leg of the 15-year stretch has started, how close is Nepal to meeting its MDGs?

Happily, it’s on track, according to a recent report published by the Nepal Planning Commission and UNDP. But – and it’s a big but – in three things: in achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all, achieving universal access to reproductive health, and, (goal number 7) in halving proportion of population without access to improved sanitation such as safe water and toilets.

Obviously, we consider the lack of progress on meeting the sanitation goal to be especially important in that it is basic hygiene that serves as visible-to-all indicators for progress.

Now that it’s on record that Nepal’s MDG progress can be slowed down due to its not meeting the sanitation goals, much work remains to be done on sanitation. In my other postings, I will share the data and thoughts with regard to what can be done to do more.

Written by Ashutosh Tiwari, Country Representative, WaterAid in Nepal.

December 17, 2010

Why fuss about sanitation?

Filed under: MDG,Sanitation,Urine — Tags: , , — Kabir Das Rajbhandari @ 5:46 pm

It is not an exaggeration to say that poor sanitation limits economic growth and cripples developing world economies. We know that poor sanitation invariably leads to low productivity. Without good sanitation, workers are less healthy and therefore less productive, live shorter lives, save and invest less and their children are less likely to attend school. On the other hand, with good sanitation, women, for example, are healthier, have more time for childcare and for income generating work. 

It has been estimated that meeting the sanitation Millenium Development Goals’ (MDG) target would yield economic benefits in the region of $63 billion each year (rising to $225 billion if universal access to sanitation were achieved.) Even conservative estimates predict that adequate investments in sanitation could provide the estimated annual 3% economic growth. Put even more simply, for every $1 invested in sanitation, $9 is returned to national economies in increased productivity and a reduced burden of healthcare. 

There are many examples of how improved sanitation can contribute towards economic development. For example, huge quantities of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in human excreta, particularly in urine, are wasted in sewerage systems and pit latrines. This represents a financial loss for public and private sewerage treatment services. Both rural and urban agriculture could benefit from nutrients from human urine and faeces to improve people’s livelihoods. 

Also, by preventing human excreta from polluting the human environment, the transmission of pathogens is also reduced. People are able to enjoy better health, allowing them to spend more time and energy on productive activities, mobilizing their assets while the costs of poor health are reduced. 

It is undeniable that improved sanitation is fundamental to improved livelihoods. Who can argue against the importance of safe sanitation and its effects on the livelihood improvements of the poorer sections of society? 

Buddhi and his grand-daughter Gyani Maya Sipai from Thimee, Bhaktapur, Nepal with produce grown using compost from latrines

Written by Kabir Rajbhandari, Programme Manager – Urban, WaterAid in Nepal

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