Public Release: 

Learning from the MDGs: Improved sanitation and drainage in cities


World leaders have agreed on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but arguably Goal six - the water and sanitation goal - will have the hardest job building on the work undertaken by the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A timely special double edition of the journal Environment and Urbanization on "Sanitation and drainage in cities" explores persistent gaps in urban sanitation provision and ways to address them.

The water MDG was widely acknowledged as the furthest from delivering against its objective, with criticism largely levelled at Target 7.C, which aimed to 'halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation'.

Across two issues of the journal, 22 papers tackle sanitation globally, alongside specific case studies and issues within Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Haiti, South Africa, Mozambique, Ghana, China, Zambia, Tanzania, and several cities in India.

Topics include:

  • different technical models (container-based toilets, closed-loop system)
  • ways of assessing sanitation quality (sanitation scores in Indian cities, a new system to measure sanitary risks in Maputo)
  • differential impacts of sanitation on certain groups (urban poor adolescent girls in Bengaluru, women and girls affected by sanitation-related violence, the poor and socially excluded in Shanghai)
  • frameworks for understanding sanitation ("sanitation cityscape", "sites of entitlement")
  • financing models (limitations to market-based services in East Africa, user willingness to pay in urban Haiti, public toilets in Ghana)
  • contextual factors for understanding sanitation (history in Dar es Salaam, a case study of Lusaka)
  • participation and inclusion (community-managed programmes in India, civil society partnership in Mumbai, reflections on inclusive sanitation, co-production of inclusive sanitation in Zimbabwe, stormwater drainage in Johannesburg, open-access water information platform)
  • policy (national sanitation policy in India, solid waste management in Chandigarh)

Despite these wide-ranging themes, many of the papers share a concern with the slow pace of sanitation improvement in the world's cities. This lack of progress is particularly notable now that it is clear that we have failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of the people without basic sanitation.

Yet the papers showcase positive context-dependent developments and point the way forward.

Diana Mitlin, the author of the October 2015 editorial and co-author of the April 2015 editorial said: "What is evident is that global commitments can and have made a difference - especially if there is the understanding that progress in sanitation requires a sophisticated knowledge of the local context and projects owned by those who are intended to benefit. Contextual knowledge, with innovation and flexibility in crafting solutions and determination to secure progress, emerge as necessary conditions."


For interviews, please contact: David Satterthwaite, editor, , +44 (0) 20 3463 7399, @Dsatterthwaite
Diana Mitlin, author, , +44 (0) 20 3463 7399, @DianaMitlin

For copies of the papers, please contact: Christine Ro, copy/managing editor,, +44 (0) 20 3463 7399

For additional information about the IIED media centre see:


Full list of individual papers:

  • Reflections on inclusive sanitation
    Corresponding author: Diana Mitlin,
  • Co-producing inclusive sanitation in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe
    Corresponding author: Anna Walnycki,
  • Sanitation partnership of Mumbai and the Indian Alliance
    Corresponding author: Sheela Patel,
  • Sanitation and urban poor adolescent girls in Bengaluru, India
    Corresponding author: Anupama Nallari,
  • Container-based sanitation in Cap Haitien, Haiti Open access
    Corresponding author: Jenna Davis,
  • Violence, gender and water/sanitation/hygiene
    Corresponding author: Marni Sommer,
  • Sanitation scores in Indian cities
    Corresponding author: Sridhar Vedachalam,
  • IWA WaterWiki, an open-access publishing platform
    Corresponding author: Chloe Parker,
  • Assessing sanitary risks in Maputo, Mozambique
    Corresponding author: Luiza C Campos,
  • Using tenure to build a "sanitation cityscape"
    Corresponding author: Pippa Scott,
  • Stormwater drainage in informal settlements in Johannesburg
    Corresponding author: Olumuyiwa Bayode Adegun,
  • Market-driven sanitation services in informal settlements
    Corresponding author: Mark O'Keefe,
  • Sites of entitlement in Mumbai Open access
    Corresponding author: Colin McFarlane,
  • Evaluating a closed-loop sanitation system in peri-urban Mongolia
    Corresponding author: Sayed Mohammad Nazim Uddin,
  • Sanitation and the city of Dar es Salaam
    Corresponding author: Maria Chiara Pastore,
  • Power, politics and history in relation to sanitation in Lusaka
    Corresponding author: Ruth Kennedy-Walker,
  • Urban sanitation and community-managed programmes in India
    Corresponding author: Priyam Das,
  • User perceptions of container-based sanitation in Cap Haitien Open access
    Corresponding author: Jenna Davis,
  • Sanitation and urban development in Shanghai
    Corresponding author: Deljana Iossifova,
  • National policy and urban sanitation in India
    Corresponding author: Kavita Wankhade,
  • Solid waste management in Chandigarh, India
    Corresponding author: Namita Gupta,
  • Public toilets in Accra
    Corresponding author: Clair Null,

About Environment and Urbanization:

Environment and Urbanization is a widely read and highly regarded urban studies and environmental studies journal, co-published by IIED and SAGE. It has been published since 1989. There are over 330,000 full text downloads of Environment and Urbanization yearly.

About IIED:

IIED is a policy and action research organisation promoting sustainable development and linking local priorities to global challenges. We are based in London and work on five continents with some of the world's most vulnerable people to strengthen their voice in the decision-making arenas that affect them.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.