Environmental pollution

Low-income neighbourhoods often lack sewage or proper waste collection services. As a result, open drains or ponds within a local area can become filled with a stinking mix of human waste and plastic rubbish.

Pit latrines for most are often not emptied frequently enough. During heavy rain or flooding, overflowing pit latrines can lead to an unpleasant and unhealthy mix of sewage and wastewater filling the streets and leaking into people’s homes. Ultimately, it all ends up in the nearest river and from there to the local lake, or sea, badly damaging our natural world. Badly managed pit latrines seep germs into the groundwater, particularly in locations such as Zambia where the water table is high. This then pollutes the groundwater for everyone.

WSUP works with local communities, municipal authorities and institutions investing in infrastructure to ensure that latrines are safely managed to protect the environment for current and future generations. This can involve supporting local community groups to keep the waterways clear or ensuring the provision of integrated services – both drains and regular waste collection – from the municipality.


Ambia, Chattogram, Bangladesh

“This will soon make the water unsafe for us to drink. And there will be no good water left for our grandchildren to drink.”

Ambia is one of thousands of residents of low-income communities in Chattogram, Bangladesh, who became dependent on groundwater after other sources were compromised. “All surface water around is polluted,” she says, saying that the sources underground then became a lifesaver. “We knew the groundwater was not polluted, so we collected drinking water from there.”

New developments in the area, however, meant that this source is now threatened by domestic pollution from more affluent groups of the population. “Now rich people build five, six-storey buildings and connect their septic tanks to the groundwater,” says Ambia, with a sombre voice.

Although the situation may threaten her access to clean water, her main concern is about the long-term future and the conditions in which her grandchildren will have to live. “This will soon make the water unsafe for us to drink. And there will be no good water left for our grandchildren to drink.”