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Taing, L, 2010 –– Improving sewerage for South Africa: A study of institutional constraints to the adoption of alternative forms of sewerage

Lina Taing (United States)

Lina TaingThe City of Cape Town faces monumental development challenges as its population of 3.3 million people and 220+ unplanned informal settlements continue to grow due to the high concentration of economic opportunities available in the urban centre.

Approximately 30% of Cape Town’s households live in informal settlements or overcrowded housing with limited or no access to basic water and sanitation services (City of Cape Town and Amanzi Obom Consulting, 2008). The majority of sanitation services in informal settlements are communal with facilities being shared by a large number of people.

Lina - final semester project

A glimpse at sanitation services in Barcelona, an informal settlement in Cape Town, South Africa. The locked communal container toilets are shared by 6-10 people and emptied 2-3 times a week by the City of Cape Town’s contractors. Barcelona is one of three pilot sites where the UCT Urban Water Management research group and City of Cape Town are working in partnership to successfully implement alternative sewerage technology in the city’s informal settlements. 

The University of Cape Town’s Urban Water Management research group is currently working in partnership with the City of Cape Town to identify low-cost alternatives to conventional sewerage for highly populated areas. The Urban Water Management team is an interdisciplinary group representing faculty and postgraduate students from the Civil Engineering, Environmental and Geographical Sciences and Social Anthropology departments as it recognises the necessity of addressing water and sanitation planning and provision from a holistic perspective.

Lina Taing has joined the Urban Water Management group for one year as an international researcher and been tasked with identifying institutional constraints within the City of Cape Town’s municipality departments and analysing how these blockages impede the adoption and successful implementation of alternative sewerage in the city’s growing informal settlements. Lina will employ participant observation where she will work in various departments as a voluntary clerk in order to gain first-hand knowledge and understanding of how the City of Cape Town municipality operates on a daily basis.

This study will hopefully show “how an ethnographic view of mundane state practices” (Ferguson and Gupta 109:105) in various City of Cape Town municipal offices related to sewerage service delivery can inform involved municipal parties, the Urban Water Management research group and other interested stakeholders of the reasons why some institutional blockages to adopting alternative sewerage exists. Ideally, understanding of the “government mentality” will encourage an adaptation of strategies and practices by municipal officials and the Urban Water Management team, which will increase the likelihood of successfully implementing new sanitation technologies in the City of Cape Town.

About Lina Taing

Lina has previously worked in London, Liberia and California for various health NGOs in operations, fundraising and community development. After witnessing first-hand how poor water and sanitation detrimentally affected the health and economy of post-conflict Liberian communities, Lina decided to pursue a Master in Integrated Water Management with aims to assist in the provision of sanitation services in developing contexts. Lina is currently conducting research with the University of Cape Town’s Urban Water Management group on a 2010 Ambassadorial Scholarship from Rotary International.

> Read more about Lina Taing's professional background


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