• Richard

Singapore, March, 2017 FSM


Visiting Singapore for the TÜV SÜD workshop on preparing an IWA standard for ‘Faecal sludge treatment units’ – ‘Energy independent, prefabricated, community-scale resource-recovery units’ as is the precise way of describing the B&MGF supported ‘Omni-processor’ development programme.

Before that meeting, first visiting Chinatown and the fascinating Chinatown Heritage Centre where it is possible to see a mid-1950’s multi-household building complete with shared bucket latrines:


Ground Floor outside bucket latrine next to the kitchen


And the first floor bucket latrine - ‘this toilet served more than 40 residents’ on this level’ where a family of eight would be sharing a single 3mx3m ‘room’.


The Centre also has a couple of pictures of the bucket latrine emptying system, complete with a multi-compartment vehicle.


Singapore GDP per person (current US$) was $428 in 1960, about the time of these photographs (above) being taken (https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD). Now at $57,714, there is obviously a complete contrast to today’s Singapore and PUB’s ‘New Water’ treatment plant, taking wastewater and treating it to drinking water standard …..



Every visitor gets a bottle of neWaterto drink


The visitor centre makes a compelling case for saving and reusing water – with the number of school children being brought on organised visits giving an impressive example of educating the next generation ….


Meanwhile, for the workshop itself, the biggest discussion about the FSM ‘Omni-processor’ was to understand both the sponsor’s intent, and the likely reality, of the boundary between the self-powered (‘Energy independent’) treatment unit and the pre-treatment required (gross solids removal and dewatering) to make that treatment possible.


My role in promoting overall sustainability in the IWA resulted in myoverly long presentation (nothing changes) but which included fascinating issues, I like to think, about effective demand etc.


Can the tank/pit emptier charge enough, not only to collect and transport the faecal sludge but also pay for the treatment, particularly the pre-treatment, even if the actual treatment can produce fertilizer for sale to offset some of the costs? Is 2% of household income a fair indicator of the likely level of willingness to pay for FSM? What is the effective demand?

The contrast between rural water and rural sanitation take up over the past fifty years and the ‘demand responsive’ approach genuinely seen in the take up of mobile phones. In the latter case it is possible to see the traditional ‘S’ Curve of innovation adoption … for water and sanitation, the trend, to me, appears much closer to a function of economic wealth and the proportion of that wealth which society is prepared to spend on watsan.


See how the new ISO International Workshop Agreement (IWA) ended up: https://www.iso.org/news/ref2280.html


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