on-site sanitation

This consists of anything but sewerage system. It ranges from the conventional septic tank and its absorption field with its entailed septage management, the unimproved pitholes, to the sometime-mind-triggering composting toilet (i mean, really, do you not want to flush after doing it?).

It is one of the first steps in sanitation ladder, before moving forward to sewerage system. Compared to the sewerage system, the investment for the onsite-sanitation is nothing. It could be build by a household (yet, still lots and lots of people defecating in streams, rivers, yards, etc).

From its quality, it could be divided into two types: improved and unimproved. The improved ones are those which can isolate human waste to the environment and to human, septic tanks, for example. The unimproved ones are whose which do not or only “pretend” to isolate human waste, but are actually not. Pit latrines and cesspools are some examples, or my favorite: a pour-flush toilet with disposal channel directing the waste straight to the back-yard stream.

However, some unimproved sanitation facilities are still tolerable depending on the carrying capacity of the environment. Rural area with low density population can use this unimproved facilities (with no ground water intake in the radius of 10 m of the facilities), while for the urban area, it is a big no no. The tolerance does not come with consequence. The use of the unimproved facilities should be regarded as the temporary solution to sanitation problem. There should be a plan to modify this into improved ones,  and later on the decentralized system in rural areas, and/or to sewerage system in peri-urban and urban area.

The improved ones also give consequences. For example emptying septic tanks periodically and managing the sludge. This also has to be fit in a plan where it could be one day connected to the sewerage system, depending on the condition of the area.

This does not mean that on-site sanitation is not a real solution to our sanitation problem. Related to high cost of operation and maintenance of sewerage system,  and as long as on-site sanitation is constructed as an improved facility, and there is no ground water intake in the vicinity of the system’s outlet (<10 m), on-site, and improved!,  sanitation IS the solution.

So, what do you have at home?


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