The regulation of emptying services in low- and middle-income countries: review and lessons learnt from practice.

4 Poster Track: Applied Research » 4 Institutional arrangements

Speaker: Alix Lerebours

Summary – for publication in conference brochure:

This study is part of a wider research looking at the regulation of emptying services in low- and middle-income countries to enable safe city-wide services. Through an online survey and document analysis, the study has resulted in an inventory of regulatory mechanisms in place within 30 different countries in Asia and Africa, providing categories of mechanisms, general trends in their implementation and lessons learnt. It makes a clear case for regulating emptying services in urban areas and highlights the importance of monitoring, support, incentives and pro-poor mechanisms to enable the enforcement of the rules set by the regulator.

Introduction, methods, results and discussion:

Research on the enabling environment of faecal sludge emptying services is recent. Little is still known about (a) the formal and informal regulation of service provision (including regulatory frameworks, their implementation, status and capacity of operators and institutions); (b) the affordability of the services (including subsidies and support mechanisms, trade-offs between quality, accessibility and affordability of services); and (c) service delivery models (including example of models, citywide coverage of services, capacity to respond to a growing demand for services).

This study is integral to a broader PhD analysing the regulation of emptying services in low- and middle-income countries to enable safe city-wide services. It aims at analysing the regulatory mechanisms in place and the lessons that can be learnt from them by bringing together experts’ knowledge and information that are very dispersed.

A review of existing emptying services, their level of implementation and their impact was conducted through an online survey among sanitation experts together with an extensive document analysis. As not all emptying initiatives and activities are documented or published online, a call for information and documents ran from May to July 2020 through the SuSanA platform and via email. Respondents were encouraged to share general details regarding the regulatory mechanisms where they work (including both the form of regulation and associated mechanisms such as rules, sanctions, incentives, support and pro-poor measures), together with supporting documents. A total of 22 responses to the online survey, along with 120 documents identified or received, provided information about 46 cities from 30 different countries in Asia and Africa.

The documents present a variety of regulatory mechanisms in place in low- and middle-income countries. In-depth analysis of the results will be completed in September 2020. However, an initial analysis shows that several cities or countries, such as Lusaka and Kampala, have recently adopted measures to regulate emptying services. The most common rules in place are licences for operators and / or their trucks, alongside mandatory disposal sites or treatment facilities. The most common sanctions in place are fines, loss of licence and loss of access to the disposal site. Where an extensive set of rules and sanctions exist, they are often accompanied by support mechanisms for the service providers. These can be in the form of training, provision of transfer stations, workers’ health-related support, and the supply of emptying equipment or personal protective equipment. Pro-poor measures are common, although only partially implemented in practice. They include formalisation of informal emptiers and the provision of transfer stations in the poorest areas, subsidies given to the household and to the emptiers to empty the latrines and subsidies to build latrines or upgrade existing ones to make them easily emptiable. Regulatory mechanisms that are in place are however typically only partially operational. This may be due to weak monitoring and enforcement from the responsible institutions, limited capacity of these institution(s) or of the service providers, and a need for additional financial input to deliver the new regulatory mechanisms at scale.

Conclusions and implications:

This study provides the sanitation sector with a clear case for regulating the emptying services in urban areas and highlights the need for functional monitoring systems, support and incentives mechanisms to help and encourage service providers, along with pro-poor measures, to enable the enforcement of regulation at the citywide scale.

This study has highlighted the variety of approaches adopted to regulate faecal sludge emptying services in urban areas. It provides a valuable evidence for research into regulatory practices and for further discussions among stakeholders. It is the basis from which to develop an inventory of types of regulatory mechanisms, typologies of maturing levels of regulation based on general trends and their potential for more effective delivery, enforcement and monitoring. This will allow city officials and development partners to see trends and examples of what has already been done elsewhere and to learn from previous initiatives.

In order to understand better how regulation is implemented, the barriers and facilitators at play, the results of this study will be complemented by an in-depth case study analysis of four cities, together with an ongoing Delphi study with service providers, providing an analysis of their experience and perspectives on regulation of their services.

Relevant references:

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Frenoux C and Tsitsikalis A (2015) Domestic private fecal sludge emptying services in Cambodia: between market efficiency and regulation needs for sustainable management. Journal of Water
Sanitation and Hygiene for Development 5(1): 143–155. DOI: 10.2166/washdev.2014.219.
Hawkins P and Muxímpua O (2015) Developing Business Models for Fecal Sludge Management in Maputo. Water and Sanitation Program Report. Washington
D.C. Available at: https://www.wsp.org/sites/wsp.org/files/publications/WSP-Developing-Business-Models-for-Fecal-Sludge-Management-Maputo.pdf.
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Tembo JM and Thole B (2015) A comparative study of faecal sludge management in Malawi and Zambia: Status
challenges and opportunities in pit latrine emptying. African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology 9(11): 783–792. DOI: 10.5897/AJEST2015.1971.
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et al. (2017) GIS analysis and optimisation of faecal sludge logistics at City-Wide Scale in Kampala
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