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Roshan Raj Shrestha: Promoting Sanitation in Asia

Article | 18 October 2013

Roshan Raj Shrestha, sanitation expert of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, talks about how the new trust fund will finance non-sewered sanitation and septage management solutions to help speed up sanitation in the Asia and Pacific region.

The Gates Foundation provides grants to many development institutions and agencies. What is the rationale behind the establishment of the sanitation trust fund with ADB?

We feel that ADB is a powerful partner because of its position as one of the most influential donor agencies in Asia and because of its ongoing commitment to the sanitation sector. We are impressed by ADB's Water Financing Partnership Facility (WFPF) and its impact on incremental growth in lending for water and sanitation projects in Asia. ADB's partnership with governments, city authorities, water utilities, and the private sector certainly will facilitate bringing new innovations to the sector.

"We will work together to identify the right projects, select critical partners and establish better relationships with governments, cities, and the private sector to build links with the people who urgently need safe sanitation solutions."

-- Roshan Raj Shrestha, Sanitation Expert, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

We believe ADB and the Gates Foundation complement each other's vision in encouraging Asia's developing countries to explore new sanitation approaches. Through the effective demonstration of the new Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund, our hope is that other donors will be attracted to contribute resources to the WFPF.

Tell us about the Foundation's approach to improving sanitation in Asia. What can we expect from the new sanitation trust fund?

Technology and innovation are our entry points to the sanitation challenge. The trust fund will not be used for business-as-usual projects such as constructing sewered toilets, increasing coverage of open defecation areas, or basic sanitation. The trust fund will focus on financing innovative non-sewered sanitation and septage management solutions.

What do you mean by "non-sewered sanitation and septage management solutions"? Can you please describe them?

The Gates Foundation's Reinvent the Toilet Challenge focuses on developing household and community toilet technologies that do not require a sewer connection or electricity and cost less than 5 cent per user per day, destroy 100% of pathogens in human waste, recover valuable resources such as energy, clean water and nutrient, and serve poor households in densely populated areas. We also support the scaling up of similar non-sewered sanitation technologies already in place.

In the case of septage management, we are investing in technologies that completely remove human waste from pits content. These technologies should be applicable for all settings including dense, urban settlements where vehicles for desludging are not able to enter. They should include inexpensive pumps that are easy to operate and/or mobile dewatering and treatment units that would increase profits for operators by increasing the number of services/day while reducing operating costs. Similarly, we are investing in innovative solutions for processing of septage or sludge that recover energy (fuel, electricity, bio-char, biogas, bio-diesel) and conserve clean water.

Why does the Gates Foundation prefer the "non-sewered" approach to improving sanitation?

Non-sewered systems are comparatively less capital-intensive, can fit into any kind of environment, are easy to install and maintain, and provide better treatment and resource recovery options. We also believe that non-sewered systems are the best solution for low income settlements often ignored by large urban sewerage networks.

We found that investments in sanitation increased from 30% to 60 % in past two years; but 80% of these investments are spent on large-scale sewerage that reaches only a small fraction of the population. We want to raise awareness for non-sewered sanitation options.

What impacts do you think the partnership will have in the Asia's sanitation sector?

We are confident that this partnership will bring new momentum in the sanitation sector. We will work together to identify the right projects, select critical partners and establish better relationships with governments, cities, and the private sector to build links with the people who urgently need safe sanitation solutions.

We are expecting that several countries in Asia will pilot and successfully demonstrate sanitation innovations - both technologies and business models, which will increase the flow of investment for scaling up non-sewered sanitation and septage management in Asia's cities. We hope this partnership will pave the way for more cities in Asia to adopt and implement innovative sanitation solutions that improve the lives of families in low income communities.

About the Champion

Roshan Raj Shrestha is a Program Officer in the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation working on the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WSH) Initiative. His main responsibility is to manage and support in execution of urban sanitation market initiative of WSH.

Before coming to the foundation, Roshan was associated with UN-Habitat working with different discipline like Regional Technical Advisor - South Asia under Water for Asian Cities Program (A joint initiative of ADB and UN-Habitat) and Settlement Improvement Advisor in one of the large slum upgrading project in Bangladesh. Roshan has about 24 years working experience in water and sanitation sector. He has long filed experience in planning, designing and execution of decentralized wastewater & water management, on-site sanitation, and sustainable sanitation projects in urban/peri-urban context of South Asia. Roshan holds a Ph.D. in Applied Natural Science from University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Austria in 1999.