Friday, January 30, 2015

Sanitation Pays Off - BIG TIME for Development in Asia

Globally, the sanitation Millennium Development Goal target is well off track. 

However, many countries in Southeast Asia have made substantial progress, although a number of them will not reach the sanitation MDG target by 2015.

 Many countries have recently revised their sanitation strategies in order to rapidly scale up sanitation and aim for universal access by 2030.

According to a new study from the Water Global Practices Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), sanitation has been shown to have significant economic and social returns in the six countries studied (Cambodia, Yunnan province of China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, and Vietnam) and benefits in both urban and rural settings exceed costs in almost all cases. 

The Economic Assessment of Sanitation Interventions in Southeast Asia found that all sanitation interventions examined have benefits that exceed costs, when compared with “no sanitation facility.” Economic benefits of sanitation are at least five times higher than economic costs in rural areas and at least three times higher for urban areas. 

Other key findings include:
- In rural areas, the most basic sanitation type, the pit latrine, had returns of at least five times its costs in all but one country, Cambodia. Across both wet and dry pit latrines, the returns are highest in Lao PDR at over eight times.
- In urban areas, pit latrines remain a feasible, affordable, and efficient sanitation option in some settings where density is low. Septic tanks were also found to be economically viable in all countries, with economic returns of around two or more per unit spent.

In all countries and for most sanitation technologies, health benefits and time savings accounted for the majority of the overall benefits. 

Some intangible benefits not quantifiable  from the above estimates were also shown to be important to households, including dignity, comfort, prestige, security, gender equality, household cleanliness, and aesthetics of the community environment. Because of inter-personal variation in responses, it was difficult to present population level averages for these intangible benefits. 

The benefits of reduced water pollution from improved fecal sludge or sewage management were not fully counted for those interventions that reduced release of fecal matter into the environment because of the methodological difficulties and data constraints involved in such valuations.

The report, which is part of the second phase of the Economics of Sanitation Initiative (ESI) launched initially in East Asia in 2007, provides sanitation decision makers with compelling evidence that directly compares the costs and benefits of alternative sanitation options across multiple contexts and countries.

Read the blog from Guy Hutton: "Why choosing the preferred sanitation solution should be more like grocery shopping."

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