Sri Lanka: GTO-members within the WTO project - Planning sanitation facilities for tsunami victims

The coastal areas of Sri Lanka were devastated by the tsunami of December 2004 and even now many victims continue to live in temporary shelters. But the good news is, the rebuilding process is now fully underway and being driven forward by the large number of NGOs that are active on the ground.

As the house construction process builds steam, it is clear that the collection and treatment of domestic wastewater cannot be treated as a secondary concern, but must be integrated into the process. 

The high groundwater table of most coastal areas prevents the application of conventional solutions as this can present risks to the environment and health hazards to humans. And unfortunately, most NGOs do not have experts who are trained to plan and deliver appropriate, sustainable, and low-cost sanitation solutions.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that many residents have little practical experience of toilet systems. In some villages, studies indicate that even before the tsunami approximately 80% of the population did not have access to santitation facilities and instead used the ocean or jungle as their toilet.

The introduction of sustainable toilet and wastewater systems in new settlements therefore represents a much larger challenge than a simple construction project. Before offering technical guidance, the importance of a functioning toilet and wastewater treatment system needs to be made clear and adopted by the builders and the future users alike.

Several NGOs have come to realise that this is an area where they often lack expertise and have requested assistance, which the World Toilet Organization (WTO) has been happy to provide; for example in the from of a comprehensive document of sanitation guidelines for World Vision, and training for members of Habitat for Humanity. The GTO supports these activities and several GTO members are actively working within these projects, in close cooperation with WTO.