Lessons and Experiences from the Ethekwini Pilot Shallow Sewer Study

Feb 2004

Executive Summary

1. Introduction
The Shallow Sewer concept has been successfully implemented in Brazil, Greece, Australia, USA, Bolivia, India and has become the norm in Pakistan, and has proven to be an extremely practical, low cost solution for installing water borne sewage systems within highly dense, informal communities. The technology is intended to develop and uplift communities while enabling governments and service providers to provide greater coverage of sanitation services. This is done through the relaxation of several design characteristics of conventional sewerage and in the process allows for shallower depths, smaller diameter pipes, flatter gradients and community based construction, operation and management.

Besides offering the convenience and health benefits of waterborne sanitation, the methodology with its intensive social programme, is intended to provide people living in communities with the skills to pull themselves out of poverty and to better organise themselves to use their social, intellectual and other capital for their own upliftment, while at the same time reducing the operational load of the service provider.

Ethekwini Water Services (EWS), in a joint venture with Water and Sanitation Services (South Africa) (WSSA) and the Water Research Commission (WRC), investigated, through a Pilot project, whether Shallow Sewers would provide a viable alternative waterborne sanitation system to the urban poor in dense settlements. The practical applications of the Shallow Sewer methodology were evaluated in two Ethekwini communities, Emmaus and Briardale.

1.1 The Ethekwini Pilot Application
With no South African experience of consequence to use as a guide, the implementation and management for the Ethekwini pilot was based on the successful model used in La Paz, Bolivia as imported by WSSA's Project Manager who had had extensive experience of the implementation of this model. The two pilot communities, Briardale and Emmaus, were selected based on the results of a social evaluation of five potential communities in Ethekwini.

The research objectives were to assess the financial, social acceptance, quality of life, technical, legal and institutional management aspects of Shallow Sewers in Ethekwini. In addition, this initiative evaluated the methodology and how it was applied to the La Pas model imported from Bolivia, and discusses the suitability and relevance of such interventions to the South African environment.

1.2 Parameters and Constraints
Emmaus was an existing community with free hold property rights, who had already been upgraded and therefore had already received their Provincial Housing Board (PHB) subsidies. The existing on-site sanitation system had failed. The community consists of 96 households, with a wide range of incomes, which are distributed into a richer and a poorer sector of the community. One third of the community earn is excess of R1800 /household per month, whilst 36% are very poor, with an income of less than R600 /household per month (5).

The Briardale community was a green-fields development made up of 157 households who were the over-spill from other upgrade projects. This development was being undertaken by an NGO using a "self help" scheme, on land being developed under the Communal Property Association Act. The average household income of this community was approximately R700 /month which was normally distributed about the mean (5).

There were two major factors, one at each of the sites, that were beyond the control of the project management, and that had serious consequences on the project.

At Emmaus, during the Local Council elections the aspirant councilor, who was subsequently elected, promised the community "free basic water" which was interpreted to mean that this included all internal plumbing, connection and consumption costs.

At Briardale the developer was unsuccessful at registering the housing scheme, which meant that the PHB subsidies were not forthcoming, which subsequently lead to the collapse of the development.

1.3 Status Quo Report
The final commissioning and operational phase has not been completed on either project due to community pressures.

In the case of Emmaus, a large percentage of the community have not installed the wet core services, including the water connection and sewer connection costs and Municipal charges, citing:

In the case of Briardale, the community has rejected all initiatives it has associated with the failed housing development initiative, including the Shallow Sewers.

Both EWS and WSSA are engaged in resolving the commissioning delay.

2. Findings
Undertaking this research in South Africa through the Ethekwini Shallow Sewer Pilot study has revealed considerable insight into the sanitation environment in general, with particular reference to Shallow Sewers. It has also provided an opportunity to guide the development of a range of similar technologies that would be applicable in the South African context.

2.1 Benefits of Shallow Sewer Systems
There are potentially substantial benefits for "Shallow Sewer type" systems. The study showed that Shallow Sewers can provide all the convenience and benefits of waterborne sanitation at half the capital cost of conventional sewers and that they may even compare favourably with the cost of pit latrines.

2.2 Drawbacks of Shallow Sewers
The Shallow Sewer System potentially provides an excellent sanitation solution in the "water and sanitation package" for South African communities, however there are some primary drawbacks for the South African context.

3. Conclusions
At this point in South Africa's development, Shallow Sewers in its pure form (i.e. as intended by the La Paz model) are not applicable to the country in general, although there may be instances where it may work to a degree. This is concluded primarily because:

3.1 The potential capital saving provided by a reduced depth sewer is enormous, and technically it should not be difficult to develop a reduced depth, conventionally owned and operated, sewer from the lessons learned from the Shallow Sewers pilot.

3.2 This research has provided some understanding of the urban poor market, and some of the lessons learnt from the Shallow Sewer pilot study could be applied to improve the success of other community development projects. In this regard, should it still be the governments intention that infrastructure development should encompass community social development, then the Shallow Sewer methodology could form the basis of a "South Africanised" community development methodology.

4. Recommendations

As community based development can be used to empower communities, and should the policy review indicate that this is desirable and the process is unfettered, then it is considered that a single uniform methodology would be appropriate to undertake this type of development. In this instance, it is recommended that the Shallow Sewer methodology be used as the basis for this methodology.