2.4bn lack safe toilets: Ashok Kumar Fellow

Article by Staff Writer

ICHEME’S 2015 Ashok Kumar Fellow Michael Jenkins has published an in-depth parliamentary briefing note for MPs on the huge water and sanitation problems facing the world.

In his ‘Postnote’, prepared during his three-month placement at the UK Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST), Jenkins reports that 2.4bn people, almost a third of the world’s population, still lack access to proper sanitation facilities. His note highlights the scale of the problem, in light of the fact that one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve universal access to safe water and sanitation by 2030.

According to the report, around a billion people still defecate in the open, while 660m people do not have access to clean water. Jenkins has used his chemical engineering expertise to examine the problem in detail. Water, sanitation, and hygiene, known collectively as WASH, is monitored jointly by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, and grouped into four categories – safely managed, basic, unimproved, and open defecation. Jenkins says that various simple technologies could help to improve the situation, including rainwater harvesting, improved alternative toilet technologies and the use of more advanced complaint recording and monitoring systems. Such systems would allow problems to be tackled sooner, where appropriate bodies to do so exist.

Access to, and availability of, WASH, could be improved through various measures including effective hygiene promotion, efforts to reach disadvantaged groups, working more closely with governments, finding better ways to finance improvements to WASH facilities and better integration of humanitarian and development aid.

POST deputy director Chandrika Nath said that Jenkins had been “a fantastic addition” to POST, and added that his briefing note has been used by several members of parliament as a source of information prior to a parliamentary debate on water and sanitation.

“The experience at POST has been really interesting and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I've learnt a great deal about how science can be communicated effectively to a non-specialist audience,” said Jenkins. “Following my EngD I intend to pursue a career in policy formation or consultancy, and the communication skills I've developed at POST will be a significant advantage. I would definitely recommend the Fellowship to other students.”

The Ashok Kumar Fellowship was set up in memory of Kumar, an IChemE Fellow and UK member of parliament, following his sudden death in 2010, and is jointly funded by IChemE and the North-East of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC). The recipient spends three months at POST to learn about how it works and produce a Postnote, or contribute to a longer report. Jenkins was awarded the 2015 Fellowship in July last year, and began his placement at POST in February. The 2016 Fellow, Akshay Deshmukh, began his three-month placement earlier this month, and will produce a parliamentary briefing note on nuclear security.

Applications for the 2017 Fellowship are now open, and will close on 31 October. Visit the Fellowship information page on the IChemE website for more information and an application form.

Article by Staff Writer

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