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