UKZN Professor Showcases the Sanitation Facilities and data available in Durban at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair: India
Professor Chris Buckley of the Pollution Research Group (PRG) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) recently travelled to India to showcase the facilities and data available to other Grantees that aims to help bring sanitation to those who need it most at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair, an initiative hosted by The Indian Department of Biotechnology and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
Buckley was accompanied by his UKZN colleagues Ms Susan Mercer and Dr Tina Velkushanova as well as Mr Teddy Gounden, the Manager for Special Projects at the eThekwini Water and Sanitation Unit (EWS). The four work together on projects through the PRG which is based in the School of Engineering.
The group focuses on research projects dealing with urban and industrial water and wastewater management.
The PRG has provided research assistance to the EWS for over 10 years and has developed a biochemical processing laboratory in order to analyse faecal and urine waste streams, undertake laboratory scale experiments, and provide data to support the development of sanitation systems.
The PRG team was one of 16 worldwide to be awarded a BMGF grant for the design of innovative sanitation systems. The grant title is: Reinvent the Toilet Challenge Phase II: Data Acquisition and Field Support for Sanitation Projects.
Research under this grant aims to characterise physical and chemical properties of excreta streams from dry onsite sanitation systems or from decentralised low-water consuming sanitation systems. Their research will be made available to other institutions which received BMGF grants in order to assist with the development of prototypes and other research groups around the world that aim to improve access to sanitation.
This Reinvent the Toilet Fair is the second to be held since the BMGF initiated the global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC) in 2011. The aim of the RTTC is to provide sustainable sanitation solutions to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe, affordable sanitation.
The Fair in New Delhi was a follow-up to the first Reinvent the Toilet Fair held in Seattle in the United States in 2012. Buckley and team also presented his solutions at that Fair.
The innovative sanitation solutions developed by participants in the RTTC were expected to meet certain requirements - the design had to:
• cost less than US$ 0.05 per user per day
• remove germs and disease from human waste
• recover valuable energy, clean water, and nutrients
• operate without connections to electrical, water and sewer systems
• promote sustainable and financially profitable sanitation services and businesses that operate in poor, densely populated areas
• be appealing to developed countries.
There were hundreds of demonstrations and more than 45 models from 15 countries were displayed to the more than 800 people who attended the Fair.
Said Velkushanova: ‘What amazes me is the amount of work that has been done over the last years, incorporating great ideas from different sectors such as academia, industry and government. It was rewarding to hear about the appreciation for the UKZN team’s work and to receive support from the foundation and all the partners we have been working with so far.’
Mercer said the Fair provided an ideal opportunity to network with the many organisations working in the field of sanitation and to view the innovative solutions developed under the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. ‘For me, the greatest reward from the Fair was to meet the many people we have been communicating with and sharing information with over the last year and to hear first-hand how beneficial they found the input and support from the PRG. Our visit to the Sulabh toilet complex was a highlight of our visit.’
Reflecting on what the UKZN team needed to consider as their work continues, Buckley said: ‘The interaction with the other Gates grantees and funders indicated how necessary it is to obtain field data to enable robust decision making.’
The research conducted by Buckley and his team for the RTTC is also being utilised in a new partnership between South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which will evaluate innovative sanitation technology. The collaboration was announced at the Fair and a memorandum of understanding titled “Partnership in the Demonstration of Sanitation Solutions in Rural and Peri-urban South Africa” was signed.
Buckley continues his work with the BMGF on other projects, having recently taken up a position on the international reference group committee for the Water Research Commission (WRC)-BMGF Sanitation Research Fund for Africa project.
- Christine Cuénod