event 15 nov. 2016

Sanitation // Green Opportunities for Urban Sanitation Challenges through Energy, Water and Nutrient Recovery

By Pay Drechsel and Munir A. Hanjra. A Nexus approach means that when governments and industries determine policies in one sector – whether energy, agriculture or water – they take into account the implications in other sectors. Applying this approach within an urbanizing world gives the Nexus a vital justification, since nowhere else are the flows of energy, water and food so stressed as where populations peak within confined spaces. Cities are hungry and thirsty and enormous hubs of consumption of all kind of goods, including food, water and energy. This in turn makes them major centres of solid and liquid waste generation. If this waste remains in the urban area or its landfills, cities will also become vast sinks for valuable resources, like crop nutrients, while rural production areas increasingly face soil fertility degradation.

Flickr 7943532356 758be18ca3 k landfill
(C) flickr / wastebusters
In this article the authors summarize findings from West Africa which analyzed the metabolism of four cities, visualizing the challenges of linear resource flows for system sustainability, followed by a discussion of options for transforming the urbanization challenge into an opportunity for a circular economy.


Pay Drechsel has twenty-five years of working experience as an environmental scientist aiming at the safe recovery of irrigation water, nutrients, and carbon from domestic waste streams, integrated natural resources management, and sustainable agricultural production in developing countries. Pay worked extensively on urban and peri-urban agriculture, safe wastewater irrigation in low-income countries, as well as economic opportunities for resource recovery and reuse. Pay joined the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and for the last ten years has been coordinating different IWMI research programmes and divisions in the agriculture–sanitation interface, supporting impact-oriented and multi-disciplinary teams. Munir A. Hanjra is currently working as an economist at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). Previously he worked as a senior research fellow at the Charles Sturt University Institute for Land, Water and Society, and CSIRO Land and Water, Australia. He is a development economist with over twenty years of professional experience on issues related to sustainable water management.




The Water, Food, Energy and Climate Nexus: Challenges and an agenda for action. Edited by Felix Dodds and Jamie Bartram. London, New York 2016, pp. 204-218

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