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  • Richard

WEDC 50 Years - An Urban Sanitation Journey

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

So pleased to be able to give a 'keynote' presentation to WEDC's 50th Anniversary Conference since John Pickford and Bill Moffat started the whole thing in 1971. This was actually the 42nd Conference in the 50 years - a remarkable achievement based on John's vision and amazing energy, succeeded by equally committed colleagues at WEDC. This conference being run by Rod Shaw, an wonderful artist as well as a fantastic 'desktop publisher and graphic designer' who transformed all of WEDC's publicity and published output over the past 30 years.

My session I entitled 'an urban sanitation journey' which tried to tell the story of sanitation, through the sector's development over 5,000 years, then 200 years, then 100 years, then WEDC's 50 years plus my personal story. AARrrrghh. All that in 15 minutes, I really was crazy. So, slimming it down very considerably as I got closer to the submission deadline I began to realise that although pleased to have been involved in marketing sanitation products from 1982 and (in Sudan, first in Mundri, then in Juba in 1984) and to have described the process in the 1992 WHO 'A guide to the development of on-site sanitation' .... there were of course 'limits to marketing'.

First though, paying my respects to John Pickford, what as I arrived were the brand new WEDC Buildings, and also to colleagues Andy and Bob (Nepal) and Margaret (we shared an office initially) and Ian.

Then I got into some of the marketing sanitation issues and a 'sanitation supermarket' in Juba in in 1984, courtesy of supporting an Oxfam project.

And then a re-worked version of the progression of sanitation provision in a UK Secondary City (Birmingham) relative to National GDP per person (now in 2020 USD Purchasing Power Parity prices), followed by my 'lockdown hobby's' research this year into the delivery of sanitation in my now home area of central Bedfordshire.

Where I was surprised to see the level at which 'Council collected closet pails' (bucket latrines) had been used in the transition between pit latrines ('too expensive to empty') and Council provider sewerage. The fulll presentation is, I understand, available through WEDC's Youtube channel for the conference.

And a photo from 'Bedfordshire Privies', Bidwell, 2000 with a quote from tanker driver Mr Ivan Walker .......

I concluded with my summary of the full version of the sanitation transition and some headlines:

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