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A new revolution for urban sanitation: lessons from the nineteenth century

The sanitary revolution that occurred in Britain and the industrializing world in the latter half of the nineteenth century has several valuable lessons for the similar revolution now needed to enable 40 per cent of the world’s population to access toilets and sanitation services. Among the most important are those concerning governance. The fathers of public health recognized that although the crisis that resulted in the ‘Great Stink’ in 1850s London was caused by a massive rise in the number of privately installed water closets, the solution, in this case construction of a sewer network, needed huge public investment and action. The same level of public action and investment by both local and national governments, supported by international donors, is needed to bring about any long-term impact on the sanitary crisis afflicting the urban poor in the 21st century.This public action and investment needs to run alongside essential activities by householders, stimulated by social marketing and the development of a low-cost sanitation economy, based on a good understanding of the local drivers of change. Only through a combination of public and private action, led by women and men of courage, commitment and inspiration such as Chadwick, Bazalgette and Snow in the 19th century, will the new sanitary revolution have any hope of success.

(authors abstract)

TitleA new revolution for urban sanitation: lessons from the nineteenth century
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsBlack, M., Fawcett, B.
Pagination10 p.; refs.; 2 notes; 1fig.
Date Published2008-11-19
PublisherIRC
Place PublishedDelft, The Netherlands
Keywordsaccess to sanitation, access to water, governance, private sector, sanitation, technical cooperation, technical development, technology
Abstract

The sanitary revolution that occurred in Britain and the industrializing world in the latter half of the nineteenth century has several valuable lessons for the similar revolution now needed to enable 40 per cent of the world’s population to access toilets and sanitation services. Among the most important are those concerning governance. The fathers of public health recognized that although the crisis that resulted in the ‘Great Stink’ in 1850s London was caused by a massive rise in the number of privately installed water closets, the solution, in this case construction of a sewer network, needed huge public investment and action. The same level of public action and investment by both local and national governments, supported by international donors, is needed to bring about any long-term impact on the sanitary crisis afflicting the urban poor in the 21st century.This public action and investment needs to run alongside essential activities by householders, stimulated by social marketing and the development of a low-cost sanitation economy, based on a good understanding of the local drivers of change. Only through a combination of public and private action, led by women and men of courage, commitment and inspiration such as Chadwick, Bazalgette and Snow in the 19th century, will the new sanitary revolution have any hope of success.

(authors abstract)

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