Added: 03.05.2011 10:52
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Bahir Dar SAWE -project

This article reflects the main objectives of the project Bahir Dar SAWE (Improvement of self-sufficiency and sustainability in sanitation, waste and energy project in Bahir Dar). The article describes the main challenges in Bahir Dar and the idea how this project will help to solve existing problems.

Bahir Dar SAWE project is located in four selected city districts in Bahir Dar in Ethiopia. The main objective is to improve environmental situation by promoting self-sufficiency in energy, waste and sanitation in the city of Bahir Dar. The project started in 2009 and it is expected to be phased out at the end of 2011.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries according to the UN list of least developed countries. Mostly in rural areas, a large proportion of the population lives below the national poverty line. Reasons for that (among others) are high population growth, low harvests in agriculture, scarcity of fresh water and the erosion on arable land which make it difficult to grow anything. Bahir Dar is the capital of the Amhara region and one of the biggest cities in Ethiopia. Lake Tana (biggest in Ethiopia) is located in the south of the city.

In Bahir Dar there is no systematic domestic or industrial waste and sewage disposal. Like in many other poor developing countries, also in Ethiopia sewage water is sometimes piped directly into rivers or lakes, without having any waste water treatment before the release. Of course this leads to serious water contamination and because of that, the utilization of these waters causes health problems for the population. Although there are lake Tana and huge groundwater sources, great part of the inhabitants are facing scarcity of water. In order to decrease the water problem in Bahir Dar, the project is working on educating people and building dry toilets, as these toilets do not use water and would not deepen the existing water scarcity.

Dry toilets will be extremely suitable for local conditions and needs, because they do not only save water but also can solve one agricultural problem, as they can offer an environmentally friendly source of natural fertilizer. Intensive application of agricultural chemicals can lead to contamination of surface and groundwater since a part of the used fertilizers is always drained into the water systems. In general, artificial fertilizers cannot be afforded by local dwellers in many locations of Ethiopia.

Other activity of the project is educating people on new sanitation technologies and on the importance of hygiene and good sanitation. In addition, some toilets are also built along with a biogas unit in order to demonstrate how to produce energy from human faeces. This is promoted through building a biogas unit attached to few cafes in market places in Bahir Dar. Biogas refers to a gas which is produced by a decomposition of organic matters in the absence of oxygen in a digester. This biogas can be easily utilized for example for cooking as cooking gas. Also, after human faeces is treated in a digester in certain condition it ends to contain less pathogenic substances as before the treatment and can be further decomposed to be used as fertilizer.

Shortly, Bahir Dar SAWE project tries to improve living conditions and tackle the poverty by offering access to adequate sanitation and energy, but also save water, protect water sources from pollution, improve agricultural productivity (fertilizer), educate local people and create new livelihood opportunities.

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