In partnership with the Water Research Commission (WRC), the City of Cape Town has entered into an agreement to provide sanitation units that recycle water and are low energy, suitable for use during disaster relief or for servicing low-income communities residing in areas where traditional infrastructure is inaccessible.

The City of Cape Town currently spends more than R300 million in annual servicing costs of toilets in informal settlements. This includes 15 000 chemical toilets, 10 800 container-based toilets, 26 000 portable flush toilets and 175 conservancy tanks.

Through grant funding provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the rollout of the Community Reinvented Toilets will be trialled in up to five different high-density settlements across Cape Town.

“This pilot project came at the right time, where sustainable and dignified sanitation is not just a goal but an imperative. Partnerships like these are invaluable. By joining forces with organisations such as the WRC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are not merely providing a service; we are enhancing human dignity. This project illustrates how collective action can propel us towards a more equitable and sustainable future for all,’ said Councillor Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation.

Site selection criteria will be developed by the project team to identify eligible pilot sites, followed by a technical feasibility assessment to confirm suitability of each site in terms of the proposed technologies.

A key component which will determine the success of the project, is the level of support from the beneficiary communities, particularly where demonstration units are placed. The City of Cape Town intends to use a portion of the grant to appoint service providers tasked to facilitate meaningful engagement with affected residents. A detailed community engagement plan will be developed and adjusted as required, taking into account feedback from all relevant stakeholders.

The intention is initially to pilot, then scale up the implementation of the innovative sanitation technologies in the long-term pipeline for informal settlement development.

The three-year agreement comprises demonstration of technologies verified through the WRC’s approved innovation platform (SASTEP) or through the City’s Water and Sanitation Directorate. The vision of the SASTEP programme is to increase local manufacturing and jobs, while meeting quality standards by incubating technologies that assist local government in building a sustainable and more capable society.

Signing of the Grant Agreement between the City of Cape Town and the BMGF, as well as the Memorandum of Agreement with the WRC as the research and technology demonstration partner, is a significant milestone in the objective set out in the City’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP), to provide access to dignified basic services for all. This investment will provide a better quality of life for approximately 18.6% of households currently living in informality in the city.

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