A systemic approach to sanitation
Sewers are expensive and expensive is one of the biggest barriers to building bathrooms for all households in low and middle income countries. The cost is such an effective barrier in some countries that it prevents access to basic sanitation for a significant portion of the population. More than a third of the Guatemalan population, a little less than 6 million people, has no basic sanitation. However, a start-up company can offer a solution that completely omits sewers and septic systems: Mosan. Mosan is a circular sanitation service and transportable dry toilets for densely populated areas and hostile environments. The company adopts a systematic approach to sanitation.
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In Guatemala, where Mosan is located, there is a clear gap between sanitation conditions in cities and rural areas. Seventy percent of urban households have access to basic services (water supply and drainage), while only 30 percent of rural households have access. Just four percent of the nation’s 334 enrolled districts have water treatment plants. In some cases, these plants lack maintenance and the ability to process all incoming wastewater. As a result, most of the contaminated water is simply poured into rivers or lakes; Stimulate the growth of cyanobacteria and the eutrophication of lakes.
Santa Catarina Palopó, Guatemala
For this reason, sanitation problems must be resolved in a sustainable manner. Building latrines or installing drainage systems can help mitigate outdoor defecation, but these technologies will never solve the problem from the root. More than just a dry toilet, Mosan is a complete sanitation service that includes a transformation process through which urine and feces are collected, processed and processed separately. During the treatment phase, the wastes are transformed into fuels (such as biochar) and agricultural fertilizers (such as struvite-based fertilizers). The products can be used directly by the community or sold to third parties, offsetting the costs of the services and generating employment opportunities.
Mosan began operations in 2010 when its founder, Mona Mijthab, worked as an industrial designer in slums prone to flooding in Bangladesh. At first it was a research project, but after several pilot projects and collaborations with a variety of institutions such as OXFAM; WSUP and MIT D-Lab became an award-winning solution. Today, Mosan is being implemented for the first time as a complete service system in Santa Catarina Palopó, Guatemala.
This Mayan community is located on the shores of Lake Atitlan, where only about 20 of the approximately 1,000 homes are connected to the municipal sewer system. The majority discharges wastewater into the lake or uses latrines, septic tanks or wells that can contaminate groundwater and aquifers. Mosan has been operating its service since September 2018 with a focus on raising people’s awareness of improved hygiene.
Club Rotaract Guatemala visits a Mosan project. The author is the third from the left.
Mosan faces challenges to establish its service. Some include the removal of cultural barriers to discuss sanitation; obtain the operating license, establish the recovery and recycling system; analyze manufacturing methods for the local production of toilets and adapt the model to specific local needs.
And then? After almost a year of research, development and service, Mosan plans to expand its services in Guatemala. The company is exploring other communities that need sustainable sanitation and is partnering with municipalities and groups such as Rotaract (Rotary International).
Mosan is one of the many sanitation services that does not require sewer infrastructure. The startup has company even in Guatemala. Worldwide, other organizations provide low-cost sanitation services through a variety of commercial models and technologies. This type of sanitation without sewerage will be necessary on the way to almost universal access to bathrooms. For more information about Mosan and its sanitation partners, visit the Library of Engineering Solutions for Change.