Unpacking Sanitation Planning Comparing Theory and Practice
Doctoral thesis, 2010
Lack of proper sanitation is linked to significant negative impacts on environmental and public health, economy, and human dignity. Despite the efforts made to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the world will miss its target of halving the percentage of people without access to improved sanitation by 2015; and there is general agreement within the field of sanitation that the sector has failed to deliver substantial improvements to the most needy. This global challenge of providing sanitation services to the underserved highlights the need to critically evaluate and change the way in which sanitation planning and service provision is approached.
The overall objective of this thesis is to better understand the planning processes used in the field of sanitation and their importance for the sustainability of sanitation efforts. To achieve this, it attempts to bridge the professions of urban planners and sanitation engineers. Specifically it explores how sanitation planning processes are structured, to what extent participation plays a role in sanitation planning, and to what extent different perspectives of criteria for sustainable sanitation appear in the process. In order to unpack the planning process into these different elements this thesis develops an analytical framework (the SanPlan Scan) based on a mixture of theory and practice from planning and sanitary engineering. The performance of this framework is subsequently tested for its ability to identify interesting trends in participation levels, procedural planning modes, and criteria for sustainability in a number of case studies from sanitation projects in West Africa and popular sanitation planning guidelines.
The resulting analyses identify critical differences between sanitation planning guidelines and practice in the field. For example, the guidelines consistently recommend more collaborative and participatory planning styles, especially including users, than was seen in the cases studied. The results also show that the process of designing sanitation options, and to some degree the selection process, remained dominated by expert-led planning styles, despite the abundance of rhetoric regarding the need for participation. The main conclusion that can be drawn from the multiple studies within this thesis is that more attention is needed to how the planning process itself is designed and conducted. This thesis supports the development of systematically adapted sanitation planning processes, by providing a starting point for discussing and understanding the practice of sanitation planning.
Procedural planning theory