- A few university students came together to provide sewerage system solution to Vingunguti residents
Last week, I visited municipal sewer at Vingunguti, one of the densely populated areas in Dar es Salaam city. Anyone visiting the area is usually welcomed by the strong stench of sewage coming from waste ponds surrounding the area.
This stench had become part and parcel of life of Magreth Jeremiah and her family who has lived in the area for the last 15 years.
The mother of two admits that poor sewage system caused a lot of inconvenience for her family and neighbours, until some two years ago when some few youth came up with a sanitation solution under the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) project.
“Sewage water flooding to our houses during rainy season had become a normal thing since this is a densely populated area,” explains the petite woman.
However for the last two years, things have changed for her family and some of her neighbours because they now have a sanitation solution to problems posed by widespread use of pit latrines with waste ending in open sewage ponds.
Thanks to students from the University of Cambridge (UK), Ardhi University and Muhimbili University for Health and Allied Sciences who came up with an innovative project to help these residents.
Elisante Julius, the project coordinator says they have been trying to come up with innovative ideas to see how they can turn the waste from the pit latrines around the area into gas and reduce the amount of waste from the municipal ponds.
“Since we started in 2014, more than 450 families have benefited from the project. Unlike other sewerage systems, these ones connect household latrines to a municipal sewer, which drains into a nearby waste stabilisation pond. From there it goes straight into our gas system which later on can be used to generate gas for home consumption,” he explains.
He added that through the system they have created, even the water that comes from the waste can be evaporated by boiling it using sun light. He hopes that with this system the waste ponds would become a thing of the past. Elisante said living too close to the waste ponds is risky since they pollute the air and can cause a lot of diseases through the air people breathe. He said this kind of innovation can be a big solution since it can help reduce such effects to the community.
Rahim Ghasi, a leader at Mji mpya street at Mnyamani ward, Vingunguti said such an innovative program has opened new hope to his community which has struggled to maintain a healthy environment.
‘‘This area is located in the valley, the sewer system wasn’t well established, but now things have changed since water used for domestic purpose can be dispose of in a well-established system which currently goes directly to the municipal sewer system.
“Before, things were different as I kept receiving lots of complaints from people living around this area. There were also cases of water and air borne diseases reported frequently but since the project was established, such cases have dropped,” explains the chairman.
He added that having such an innovative idea of turning the sewage into gas can be a big lifesaving mission because of the impact the municipal sewer has in the community health.
“They used to treat these ponds but I don’t think it used to be done properly because one cannot touch let alone tolerate the strong smell that comes from the waste ponds. If these were well treated no smell could be coming out of them,” he said.
“Toxic fumes that come from the ponds can’t be detected at once, it takes years for the impact to be noticed because it slowly affects you. Even houses which are closely located near the damp, the iron sheets rust easily, this shows how dangerous the area is,” says Rahim.
Fiona Conlon, a health project volunteer at Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI), says the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) projects are being conductied to provide sanitation solution to the problems posed by the widespread use of pit latrines in peri-urban areas.
“This objective has been achieved in Mnyamani through the installation of a simplified sewerage network, which acts as a cheap alternative to conventional systems,” she says adding that pipes laid at shallow depths and gradients connect household latrines to a municipal sewer, which drains into a nearby waste stabilisation pond. Using this method, CDI have connected 450 people to a working sewerage system since 2014, and are expanding the network to serve a further 100 people in 2017.”
According to her the health benefits associated with good-quality sanitation infrastructure are evident like direct transportation of sewage away from houses, limiting contact with faecal matter, resulting in cleaner toilets, cleaner streets and improved hygiene behaviour.
In a recent survey of their initiative network, 97 per cent of households agreed or strongly agreed that the network had improved the overall health of the community.
“Moreover, our approach is one of participatory development, and thus the project is fundamentally a community-led venture. A Sanitation Users Association (SUA) is established for each of the routes comprising the network. This is a committee made up of the beneficiaries of the network, who are responsible for the construction, payments and maintenance of the system,”
The SUAs also include the position of a Health Ambassador, who promotes positive hygiene behaviour such as handwashing and correct latrine usage. Additionally, this forthcoming year the group will be running handwashing, toothbrushing and latrine management training sessions as well as a 24 month series of workshops on community bonding, entrepreneurial skills and life skills in conjunction with two local Non Governmental Organizations.
Meanwhile, CDI’s Health team is continuing its innovative work in Vingunguti. Working in collaboration with local citizens and stakeholders, the programme seeks to design, implement, and evaluate health-based projects within Vingunguti.
As a new initiative this year, we have been planning and running a series of workshops focused on women’s health, designed and delivered in collaboration with community health workers and Childbirth Survival International (CSI). During a focus group this August, the community health workers told us that the single most important need for women in Vingunguti is education; equipping them with knowledge that will allow them to have greater control over the course of their lives.
Addressing this need, topics tackled in our workshops include maternal health, cancer, contraception and sexual health. This year, we are also working closely with Waterscope, a start-up from Cambridge in the UK which is 3D-printed microscopes that can test water quality or test for malaria. We are running workshops with children from the community and in collaboration with Ifakara Health Institute to collect user feedback on Waterscope’s microscope prototypes, with a long-term goal of making accurate microscopy diagnosis more accessible to local communities.