Sanitation Planning in Small Towns

Sanitation planning for small towns is the main research focus of the Strategic Environmental Sanitation Planning group for the period 2015-2017. Our work focuses on providing planning and programming solutions for small towns (i.e. less than 100'000 population) that are characterised by weak institutional settings, a lack of environmental sanitation infrastructure and services and a weak financial base. Small towns in low- and middle-income countries need special attention in terms of capacity development and structured, simple guidance for providing better urban sanitation services. The objective of this three year research project is to provide state-of-the-art guidance for urban environmental sanitation planning and programming in three different countries: Bolivia, Nepal and Malawi. We aim to gain insight into the planning of urban sanitation solutions in small town settings that would be applicable in similar settings in the three different countries. This research is funded by the Global Water Initiatives of SDC.


In Bolivia, the SESP group is supporting the GAM project (Gestion Ambiental Municipal) of Helvetas, CSD Engineer SA and AGUATUYA, with applied research on sanitation planning for small towns and peri-urban areas. The project aims at improving the health of the vulnerable population in medium sized cities (urban settlements with approximately 5.000 and 50.000 inhabitants) in approximately 20 partner municipalities in the four following regions of Bolivia: Valle Alto de Cochabamba, Chichas de Potosi, Chaco and Titicaca Lake.

The collaboration focuses on developing integrated sanitation service solutions for peri-urban areas or neighbourhoods that cannot be connected to the main sewer networks. Another important component is the capacity-building of project staff in participatory sanitation planning.

Feasibility study of a sanitation system based on UDDTs

The first applied research focussed on the assessment and further development of a management scheme for the numerous urine-diverting dry toilets (UDDTs) in Arbieto, a municipality of the Valle Alto de Cochabamba.  Organisations have provided households with UDDTS, but have failed to implement related emptying services.  As a consequence, the UDDTs are not used as planned, which has led to the failure of the system. This case is typical in Bolivia and other parts of the world and this study is aimed at understanding users’ perceptions and defining service scenarios. These were discussed among representatives of the GAM project and from the Municipality of Arbieto.



The small towns’ research in Nepal is partnering with the Asian Development Bank-funded Small Town Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Programme (STWSSSP Phase III). In the town of Tikapur (Kailali District), we are validating a number of state-of-the art planning and analysis tools and their applicability to small town sanitation planning. These tools include:

After a series of expert and stakeholder workshops, we finalized the Tikapur City Sanitation Plan that will provide a roadmap for sanitation services and infrastructure in the short- and mid-term.


Dr. Christoph LüthiDr. Eng. Infrastructure PlanningTel. +41 58 765 5614Send Mail


In Malawi, the SESP Group is collaborating with the Polytechnic in Blantyre on the assessment of sanitation services in the town of Luchenza. The final output is to develop a Malawi specific sanitation planning and management framework, based on the CLUES planning approach, that identifies challenges, bottlenecks and opportunities for small town sanitation services in Malawi.


Dr. Christoph LüthiDr. Eng. Infrastructure PlanningTel. +41 58 765 5614Send Mail