People and puddles: is drainage important?

Water and sanitation projects have tended to focus on the provision of water supply, with sanitation aspects given a lower priority. Soft aspects such as hygiene promotion – an essential ingredient for health improvements, also lack the same status as hard engineering components. Environmental health however is not just limited to the provision of safe water and the disposal of faeces; solid waste management and drainage of rainwater are also important issues. Drainage does not have a high profile. In the last seven years there have only been two papers relating specifically to drainage and about eight others that examine a related aspect, such as pollution of watercourses or groundwater or large-scale rainwater harvesting. A DFID sponsored project is examining the issues that lie behind the implementation of urban drainage projects and to see if alternative drainage technologies are appropriate in developing countries. This paper sets out the background to this project and discusses the problems of introducing a new technology.