In recent decades South Africa has witnessed a substantial growth in its urban population. This growth has been accompanied by the mushrooming of informal settlements (shantytowns) flanking more formal development. The lack of adequate urban drainage in many of these informal settlements has resulted in extremely polluted environments which add to the disease burden of the poor people who live there. In many instances, informal settlements in South Africa are established on marginal land that is inherently difficult to service using conventional gravity sewerage. International experience has shown that various alternative wastewater collection systems may present more appropriate ways of providing water-borne sewerage in areas that are difficult to service by conventional means. Alternative sewerage schemes have however had a poor record of success in South African informal settlements – primarily stemming from the implementing agencies' failure to adequately address various social and institutional factors. In this paper, a review of South African experiences with simplified sewerage, settled sewerage and vacuum sewerage in urban informal settlements is used to highlight the key constraints that currently impede the application of these technologies.

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