Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Community Water Supply and Sanitation Unit evaluates water-saving sanitation project


With the government working towards eradicating the country’s sanitation backlog, the CPUT Community Water Supply and Sanitation Unit (CWSS) has been appointed to evaluate a pilot project in Cape Town.

MobiSan Technology, a dry sanitation and urine diversion stand-alone unit, which does not affect ground water, is currently being implemented at Pooke se Bos informal settlement.

CWSS’s primary role is to evaluate the user acceptance and functioning of mobile communal sanitation facilities, using Cape Town as a case study.

The initiative was as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between CWSS and Partnership Group, which includes Dutch-Consortium and the City of Cape Town that was signed on 28 July 2009.

The Dutch-Consortium is made up of Lettinga Associates Foundation and Viitens Evides companies that invented the MobiSan Technology.

According to Muanda, a principal researcher at CWSS, the MobiSan is an ecological sanitation system and it does not require the use of water for flushing.

“In South Africa, as a water-scarce country, the application of MobiSan Technology may result in reduction of the use of portable water for flushing and save substantial amounts of water,” said Muanda.

Under the MoU, it was agreed that the CWSS Unit should cover the evaluation and analysis of the MobiSan pilot project and operationalise it through monitoring and the development of comprehensive guidelines for operation and maintenance.

CWSS is also responsible for research funding and management.

As from 1 April 2010, the team is going to formally start working on the project, but background research had already been completed.

“We understand that decent sanitation service is a human right, it doesn’t matter where you stay, so we’ll base our evaluation on that,” said Muanda.

Prof Alvin Lagardien, CWSS’s director, is heading a team of researchers, which comprise of Muanda, an official from the City of Cape Town and CPUT postgraduate students from the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Departments. CPUT staff members also form part of the team.

According to Muanda the government has been trying to come up with a plan on what kind of sanitation people want.

“Most of the times, people want full flush toilets but not all of them have the infrastructure, so the government has to find a way to meet them half-way,” said Muanda.

The MobiSan idea was sold by the two Dutch companies to the City of Cape Town.

The City of Cape Town was keen on the idea and allowed the two companies to pilot the project. Part of the requirements was to involve local researchers in order to determine the project’s effectiveness in a South African context.

CPUT’s CWSS Unit had to come on board and in its research findings, it will advise in favour or against the MobiSan Technology.

The Water Research Commission is funding the continuation of the project.

Muanda said: “We will also look at other technologies that were implemented and see if MobiSan meets the requirements. It’s important for us also to find out if they have a remedial plan.”

By Andiswa Dantile

Photograph: (top) Christophe Muanda, Principal Researcher; Ameen Benjamin, Researcher; Deborah Cousins, Researcher and Claudius Zindoga, Researcher. (left and bottom) Scenes from the MobiSan launch at Pooke se Bos informal settlement.

Written by CPUT News