Will aid collapse?; best blogs; China demystified; green flying toilets; good news on maternal mortality; telly not twitter; new film competition; Coca Colla and revenge of the pixels: links I liked

Owen Barder ponders ‘the coming collapse of the aid system’ and gives his league table of the best development blogs (and yep, he likes this one, so his judgement is clearly impeccable). Try and find half an hour to browse – well worth it.

Justin Lin, chief economist at the World Bank, demystifies the Chinese miracle.

Ever read about Kibera’s ‘flying toilets’ (no latrines, lots of plastic bags – use your imagination), well now someone has decided to work within the existing system. A Swedish entrepreneur is trying to market and sell a biodegradable plastic bag that acts as a single-use toilet for urban slums in the developing world. Once used, the bag can be knotted and buried, and a layer of urea crystals breaks down the waste into fertilizer, killing off disease-producing pathogens found in faeces. The bag, called the Peepoo, is the brainchild of Anders Wilhelmson, an architect and professor in Stockholm. [h/t Bill Easterly] Doesn’t feel right to me – what do people think? [Update: people think it stinks (sorry) – see comments]

Oh dear, more good news. Karen Grepin reports on new research published in the Lancet that suggests that maternal mortality rates, traditionally seen as the worst performing of the Millennium Development Goals, may actually be improving (but the scandal is we don’t know for sure, because data is so bad that much of this is guesswork).

Bill Easterly reminds technofrothers that it is telly, not twitter, that is really changing the world

Fancy entering a competition for short films that expose the true cost and impact of arms trade and armed violence on development? Not sure how many film makers read this blog, but if you know any, direct them to the ‘shooting poverty’ site.

Bolivia thumbs its nose at a certain soft drinks giant by launching ‘Coca Colla’ – the real real thing.

A pixellated world  – aka revenge of the space invaders. Clever, but is it just me, or is it also slightly depressing? [h/t Alex Evans]

PIXELS by PATRICK JEAN.
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Comments

4 Responses to “Will aid collapse?; best blogs; China demystified; green flying toilets; good news on maternal mortality; telly not twitter; new film competition; Coca Colla and revenge of the pixels: links I liked”
  1. Thanks Duncan, as usual, for these links.

    The Peepoo bags have received mostly negative comments from the field and from Watsan people( (see http://www.watersanitationhygiene.org/forum/phpBB3/download/file.php?id=9&sid=9472601551c1437a5db7f2edb3139f38) or http://www.watersanitationhygiene.org/forum/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=366&t=51.

    Basically, apart from being biodegradable, it doesn’t add much, but it remains costly. A quick ‘n dirty calculation shows that for the same price, you could instead build many of the wonderful SPARC-style community toilets – serving more people, with better hygiene benefits, sustainable, community-led, you name it. See http://duncanmarasanitation.blogspot.com/2009/08/peepoo-bags.html for example…

    Peepoo bags are well marketed (since everybody seems to know about them) but appear very much as an engineer’s solution to a much more complex problem!

  2. Kate Norgrove

    Hi Duncan – response on the pee-poo bag from our technical team at WaterAid:

    The Pee/Poo Bag is not an adequate substitute for improved latrines and sanitation services in urban areas. It does not address issues of privacy or dignity and there are questions over the viability of excreta disposal mechanisms associated with the bag if it is to be widely implemented. Producing fertilizer from human excreta is an attractive concept but there have to be markets (and cultural acceptance of its use) in place for such disposal mechanisms to be viable in urban areas. If these features are not present then problems whereby bags are thrown onto rooftops and into drainage channels remain. It might be useful as an interim solution in emergency situations but we are even sceptical on this. Although it is logistically difficult to implement improved sanitation services in informal urban settlements for a variety of reasons, solutions that address dignity, privacy, health and safe excreta disposal from source to the environment remain the favored long-term option.

    Last but not least… it’s really hard to teeter over the tiny container in which the bag has been placed and heavens knows what you do if you have to urinate at the same time!

    Duncan: See, I knew it was too good to be true! And glad to see you getting across the details of your brief, Kate……..

  3. Ashley

    Hi Duncan and followers of the Peepoo debate,

    I was involved in a trial of Peepoos in Bangladesh (pardon my bias) and while I don’t wish for a world where everyone goes to the toilet in a bag, I do think they can be extremely beneficial in urban slums (especially in the interim while longer-term solutions are developed – and let’s be honest, toilets don’t grow themselves overnight!).

    I don’t know why people feel it doesn’t address issues of privacy and dignity – in Bangladesh, people who normally practised open defecation were able to use a Peepoo in a private place (many even used it in their homes) because it is clean to use. It also offers women – many of whom wait to go to the toilet at night – the opportunity to go to the toilet when they choose. Using a bag may not be the most dignified solution, but it beats open defecation (not to mention some of the terrible ‘latrines’ that are commonly used). This was certainly the view of the majority of the people in Bangladesh who took part in the trial.

    Compared to the horrendous state of many latrines in the developing world, the Peepoo is also much more sanitary, better for the environment, and of course there is the added benefit of the urea killing bacteria quickly and the excreta converting into valuable fertiliser.

    I also think Peepoos address the vital issues of land availability and ownership that exist in many slums. Not only is there often little space in which to build latrines in dense slums, but there may also be issues around land ownership that prevent many slum residents or government authorities from investing in infrastructure-based sanitation solutions.

    I know they aren’t perfect, they aren’t the only solution and I understand why people don’t exactly love them, but I don’t they should be tossed aside the way they have been by some. I think at the very least they are a valuable option for people in urban slums (and emergencies) to have.

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