Long-Term Management

The actual construction and implementation of any sanitation facility may seem challenging, but this process is arguably one of the easiest aspects to the project. Creating a sustainable plan for operations and maintenance that will continue to successfully thrive for years to come is an aspect which has proven extremely challenging in the past. According to R.C. Carter, keeping elected water committees functioning has shown to decrease within the first two or three years following construction. Therefore, it is vital that an NGO or governmental organisation maintain responsibility (Carter 2007). The WaterCan project realised the need for long-term management during their project in Kampala, Uganda. At each of the sanitation sites in Kampala, five community members were elected to comprise of a user committee, responsible for ensuring the proper maintenance and operation of the facility by all community members. These committees have shown to be effective through their organisational skills in holding meetings addressing key issues within the settlement. For example, lack of proper waste disposal within the settlement was causing many of the drains to become clogged, in turn resulting in stagnant pools of water creating a very unsanitary situation. To combat this problem, the residents, under the direction of the user committee, worked together to un-clog these drainage channels (Yap 2007).

WaterAid is an organisation focused on providing clean water, hygiene and proper sanitation to lacking communities in twenty seven countries throughout the world. Working with a number of local organisations, WaterAid focuses on the unique needs of particular communities and helps manage the implementation of low-cost sustainable technologies. Realising that projects are proven to last longer through continued maintenance and commitment by the community if their specific needs are met, community participation is a leading factor from the very start on any project. Along with their direct involvement during the planning and building phases, communities are responsible for the long-term maintenance and management of their facilities. Committees are generally organised, consisting of members chosen by their community in charge of managing the project and any accounts. WaterAid is responsible for training these members, and a successful community is able to care for any problems with their facility without any outside help, besides in serious cases (WaterAid 2012).

Past WPI project teams have recognised the possible benefits of hiring a caretaker in their plans for a proposed community sanitation facility. A caretaker would be responsible for any maintenance on the facility, including preventative maintenance. They would also ensure sustainability for the project by informing users on how to properly use all aspects of the facility, along with educating the community about the importance of safe sanitation practices (Granfone 2008). This model was also incorporated in the 2011 WaSH team proposal. Their design consisted of a caretaker’s office within the facility for a community member who would be paid to properly manage the facility. Along with repairs, such a person would watch over the facility to avoid vandalism, and stock all supplies including soap and toilet paper. The team felt that a caretaker would reduce the cost of the facilities by limiting the required amount of maintenance and repair on the facility as well as being able to make quick repairs to the facility (Kenney 2011).

The Pune sanitation project also included a caretaker’s room where a caretaker could reside. However, in a number of communities, a caretaker was chosen who already lived within the community and therefore chose not to live at the facility. Therefore, local residents were given the freedom of deciding what to do with the unused room. In Bharat Nagar, the community allowed local boys to turn the room into their own personal gym and common room. Other communities came up with ideas for the room including using it as a venue which could be rented out for various events such as weddings where any money would go toward maintenance, a community office, or even a room where a local group of women can hold their local get-togethers (Hobson 2000). All of these ideas helped foster the idea of turning the toilet facility into a community space. This has proven extremely important in terms of long-term success for the community is driven to take greater care of the facility in order to keep their communal space clean (Hobson 2000).

The MobiSan facility, implemented in Pook se Bos, Cape Town, in 2009, has proven its success over the past years. It involves the help of two caretakers chosen from within the local community who are paid by the local municipality. In order to prevent any misuse or vandalism of the facility, one caretaker is always on duty. The caretaker is responsible for providing users of the facility with toilet paper, along with educating the community about the importance of safe sanitation practices and how to properly use the urine divergent toilets within the facility. This method has been effective ever since the opening of the facility in 2009 (Quayle 2012).

In Langrug, residents, as well as co-researchers, must be involved in the long-term management plan for a sanitation facility. Both the WaSH and Greywater projects from 2011 display a significant amount of sustainability in this respect (Harris, 2011 & Kenney 2011). The teams focused on making sure that the co-researchers had the necessary skills to continue upgrading after the WPI students left, and the WaSH team even created a Guidebook and a Design Book, full of relevant pictures, to aid the community in continuing their work. Following an interview with one of the students from the 2011 Greywater team, it was learned that the co-researchers in Langrug continued the organisation of projects for upgrading greywater channels following the departure of the WPI students (Momose 2012). The 2010 project group also wrote an Operations Manual to explain important steps that must be taken to properly maintain the sanitation system they implemented, including how to empty the greywater tanks and how to determine when blackwater tanks must be pumped (Connolly 2010).