Wastewater Treatment Plants in rapid mass displacement situations

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Helpdesk Query:
  • When and where have emergency wastewater treatment plants been developed in rapid mass displacement situations and situations of limited space/access?
  • What models were used, and what were the implications in terms of performance and cost?

This rapid review report has identified the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) options used in emergency settings, with decentralised wastewater treatment systems (DEWATS) and mobile wastewater treatment units performing most effectively and with minimal costs. Examples are taken from refugee camps and internally displaced people (IDP) settlements due to the Iraq war, the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and the civil wars in Syria and Sudan. WWTP options used in Finland, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Sudan and Turkey are discussed. Lessons learned from China and suggestions for the Rohingya crisis are also included.

A lot of available evidence focuses on water treatment plants, pre-assembled Mobile Water Treatment Equipment (MWTE), or modular water treatment kits (to be assembled in the field) which are used to clean water for drinking in emergency systems, which is not within the scope of this review. The WWTP findings listed are based on peer reviewed journals, global funding agency reports, as well as grey literature. Model information is taken from global manufacturers specialising in WWTP production, however, there is a paucity of information describing models used in specific settlements/refugee camps in low-income/slum areas.

Senior experts consulted for this review confirm that there are very little published evaluations on affordable wastewater treatment plants used in emergency settings. Although there are reports of camp areas specifically for women and children, most wastewater treatment plants are in settlements and sites to be used by both genders, therefore the data included in this review is gender-blind. No specific data searches were made for disabled WWTP users.

Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) remove contaminants from wastewater. The treatment to remove these contaminants includes physical, chemical, and biological processes to produce environmentally safe treated wastewater (Grange / HIF – Humanitarian Innovation Fund, 2016:10). Adequate sanitation provision is vital to promote health and prevent the spread of disease from wastewater in long-term temporary settlements such as refugee camps. As sites tend to be overcrowded, facilities can be far from adequate.

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