In order to model a sanitation facility that will improve upon the water and sanitation situation plaguing Monwabisi Park, the evolution, current state, and previously attempted solutions for the problem must first be fully understood. The following background thus outlines the impact of the region’s transition from apartheid oppression to post-apartheid privileges on its water and sanitation circumstances. Primary concerns for resident health and well-being due to Monwabisi Park’s current conditions and common practices are then identified, and preceding efforts to address them both within the park and across the globe are highlighted. Finally, the water facility designs and sanitation system suggestions provided by the previous two years’ WPI teams and international case studies will be described as the foundation from which our work expanded.

* * *

The World Health Organization recognizes unsafe water supply and poor sanitation as one of the most common “preventable risks” leading to mortality across the globe. Unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene are the leading contributors to the transmission of a wide variety of illnesses, including schistosomiasis, trachoma, hepatitis, worm infestations, cholera, and the particularly devastating diarrhoeal diseases. As of 2006, there were 54 countries in which more than half of the population lacked access to satisfactory sanitation facilities, while 14% of the global population remained without access to improved drinking water. Together, these two statistical categories total to 0ver two billion people without improved sanitation and close to one billion people without improved water supplies (World Health Organization, 2009).

water and sanitation history

History of Water and Sanitation in South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa may be considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world (, 2009), but it is not exempt from this global epidemic of inadequate water infrastructure. As the Apartheid era came to a close, South African natives began to migrate to the major cities in order to exercise their hard earned rights for equal opportunity. This massive influx of people led to an over-saturated job market, which directly resulted in the swell of “squatter camps”- temporary dwellings for migrants in pursuit of jobs. Over time, these squatter camps have gradually evolved into permanent domiciles due to the absence of any significant efforts to formally accommodate their residents (Granfone et al, 2008).

water and sanitation pit latrine

Current Conditions & Common Practices within Monwabisi Park

The abandonment of official planning during the erection of squatter camps like Monwabisi Park, located in the Khayelitsha township, resulted in the inadequate provision of even the most basic services. The City of Cape Town has offered to provide pour flush toilets and “black bucket” service within the park, yet the toilets are sparse and largely nonfunctioning while the community has refused the unsanitary City black buckets altogether. In response, many residents have constructed  their own rudimentary pit latrines, however these facilities are generally unsanitary and often contribute to the contamination of the region’s ground water. The City of Cape Town also provides free, potable water to Monwabisi Park via municipal water taps, but many of these taps are broken due to vandalism and misuse. Contamination of the City water due to the infrequent advocation or application of sanitary practices during tap use and bucket transport can also render the water unsafe. The combination of these conditions fosters the uncontrolled proliferation of diarrhoeal diseases (Granfone et al, 2008).

water and sanitation park

Monwabisi Park as a Model for Redevelopment

The problems faced by the people residing in Monwabisi Park and other informal settlements have been recognized by preceding project groups, outside aid organizations such as the Shaster Foundation, and the City of Cape Town. The basis of this project was itself an expansion of the work performed by previous researchers. Through the exploration of case studies, we evaluated past successes and failures in similar situations. We used research conducted by last year’s WPI Major Qualifying Project and Interactive Qualifying Project teams in conjunction with the University of Cape Town and the local government for information specific to Monwabisi Park. This research and planning provided our project group with a robust framework to build upon.


water and sanitation case studies

Learning by Example: Case Studies

Despite the work that has already been done in Monwabisi Park, there is still a desperate need for immediate water and sanitation services. Thousands of citizens continue to follow unsafe sanitation practices, largely due to the lack of available alternatives. The law requires a family-to-toilet ratio of 5:1, and yet even if all toilets are assumed functional, 69 families must still share a single toilet. Water contamination still exists within the park, and the alarming 2005 infant mortality rate of 34.72% indicates that hygiene practices have not sufficiently improved to prevent the spread of disease. Previous efforts to provide clean water and adequate sanitation to the residents of informal settlements like Monwabisi Park may have set the stage for improvement, but has provided little to date in terms of tangible change for the community (Granfone et al, 2008).