Get the media to get to the politicians.
In his welcoming remarks, WTO Founder Jack Sim highlighted the fact that sanitation is preventive medicine and, in countries like Singapore, an engine of growth. So how do you get toilets on the international agenda? Jack says that advocates and activists need to add humor to serious fact in order to get the attention of the media . Then politicians, who normally enjoy the limelight, get on board.
Make toilets sexy.
Demand-driven, market-based models are the only way to reach the 2.5 billion without proper sanitation. Engage the customer! Poor people are like everyone else: their buying decisions are based on emotional needs as much as they are on rationality. “We need to make toilets sexy,” says Jack.
Decentralize with new technologies
. To leverage change we need to do the following: First, de-link water and sanitation. Second, to decentralize and look beyond water borne systems and the big projects that engineers and donors have supported in the past. Third, to push new vacuum technologies and with Teflon coated pipes that move waste horizontally without water.
Get the corporate sector creatively involved
. Following Jack on the podium, Singapore Minister and long-time environmentalist Lim Swee Say called on the corporate sector to follow the lead of Caltex Singapore and make clean toilets part of their corporate mission. He called for creativity to raise the status of cleaners while enrolling users in sharing responsibility.
Enlarge the vision.
The Asian Development Bank’s Dr Arnand Chiplunkar noted that the WTO had created value for the development banks by bringing together a rich cross section of stakeholders. Since most Asian nations are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), now the objective should be to look at the complete cycle of rivers and waterways. Combine sanitation with food waste recycling, bio-gas production, and carbon footprint reduction.
Reconnect sanitation and urbanization.
Dr. Seetharam Kallidaikurichi Easwaran, Visiting Professor of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, spoke of the insanity of disconnecting sanitation from urbanization, He demonstrated how poor sanitation correlates with Transparency International’s corruption index and noted the “insanity of passing the crisis to the next generation.”
Get the price right.
Throughout the three days of the conference speakers railed against subsidies at every level. Easwaran suggested we consider the water we use on lease. No one owns it. It’s returned to the environment after use. So the rental price needs to be right. He noted sustainable pricing in Singapore, where a liter of fresh water costs the same as a liter of desalinated water.
Experts at the World Toilet Summit in Singapore this week all agreed that sanitation pays off. The World Health Organisation alone has shown time and time again that a single dollar’s investment in sanitation brings anywhere from $3 to $34 return in health. One estimate of the cost of fixing sanitation in the developing countries is a mere 0.1% of OECD GNP. So how do you get investors, governments and the international community to invest more? Speakers in the opening session had some ideas.