A Sanitation Economy Interview with The Toilet Board Coalition's Sanitation Economy Specialist

6th November, 2018

TBC: 

Hello James, Could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

James Dornan: 

My background is in civil engineering, and I'm thankful that it gave me the chance to work on a wide variety of projects. I have spent the last few years in various countries including Afghanistan and Nepal working on construction projects and recently returned to the UK to complete a water and sanitation focused MSc at Cranfield. For my thesis, I worked on a project with the TBC. It was great to work on a project grounded in direct real-world applicability and relevance!

TBC: 

Why did you choose this degree?

James Dornan: 

I have always tended to be very 'hardware' focussed, and toilets for were almost just an add-on to the main structure. My time working in Nepal exposed me to some really passionate people and great projects that highlighted to me the importance of WASH - and sanitation in particular. Of course, there is a lot more to sanitation than just building toilets and I was really keen to learn more!

TBC: 

What is your role in the Toilet Board?

James Dornan: 

I'm very thankful for the chance to develop and apply the work I did with the TBC during my thesis, which centred around a methodology to assess the feasibility of implementing the sanitation economy. 

TBC: 

Why the focus on the sanitation economy?

James Dornan: 

Sanitation has traditionally been a capital-intensive industry which struggles with tariff collection. We need a paradigm shift. This could come from a combination of things, but for me, I see the Sanitation Economy as key.

If a household can afford to build their own toilet and have is emptied, there is very little incentive (or capacity) for the resources to get to treatment. Demand creation at the end of the sanitation value chain I see as the only sustainable way these resources will end up there. Think in terms of pulling resources along the sanitation chain, rather than pushing them.

Of course, improved sanitation is the most relatable benefit - as its a need we all feel every day! But circular sanitation systems also reduce our impact on the environment, which is also becoming a very tangible issue for many.

TBC: 

What excites you about this work?

James Dornan: 

I might be biased, but I can't think of another area of work in which you can contribute to making such a big difference, to such a big number of people! There is also so much room for innovation, both from within and from involving and learning from other sectors. It is an exciting time to be involved!