Rising to the challenge: Monash project targets global sanitation woes

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RISE (Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments)

An ambitious project led by the Monash Sustainable Development Institute is trialling a solution to one of the most intractable problems in developing countries: the lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

The Program Director, Professor Rebekah Brown, said more than a billion people living in informal settlements – crowded slums or shanty settlements – lacked ready access to clean water, adequate sanitation and flood protection.

RISE (Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments) is developing and rigorously testing a solution tailored to these communities.

“The first-world big-dam, big-pipes, big-pumps solutions are not reaching these vulnerable communities,” Professor Brown said. “We’re proposing an approach that is water-sensitive and has ‘green’ infrastructure.”

This includes recycled wastewater, harvested rainwater, green spaces for water cleansing and food cultivation, improved housing stock, and reduced susceptibility to flooding and climate change.

RISE teams are now engaging community leaders and residents in 24 urban informal settlements in Makassar, Indonesia, and Suva, Fiji.

Architects and engineers are holding design workshops for residents to ascertain their needs and ideas for a revitalised environment. Scientists are measuring soil and water quality, and exposure to rats, mosquitoes, bacteria and viruses. Health workers are testing the gastrointestinal health of under-five-year-olds in particular, as a barometer of community health and to inform parents about diseases they may have.

The teams are carefully gauging the level of violence against women and girls, often endemic to these communities.

Trialling the approach in such communities marks a world-first.

The project, which involves 150 researchers from several universities, has attracted considerable interest and the backing of the Wellcome Trust, Asian Development Bank, City of Makassar, and the governments of Fiji and New Zealand.

“I want this project delivered at scale across the planet,” Professor Brown said. “So that by 2030, all people living in informal settlements will have fair and equitable access to quality water supply and sanitation – and that should be their human right.”

The opportunity

Hundreds of innovative research programs at Monash are delivering against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and making a significant impact in areas such as clean water and sanitation, good health and wellbeing, and affordable and clean energy.

To find out more, contact Dani Howden at Dani.Howden@monash.edu.

Why partner with Monash to solve global problems?

We are in the top 10%* of universities delivering against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

*Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings 2019 assessed 450 universities across 76 countries