An Ethical Evaluation of the Impact of the Use of pit Latrines on the Health of the Human and Natural Enviroment in lusaka: A case study of Kanyama compound

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Daka, Noel
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University of Zambia
This article is about pit latrines. In Zambia, pit latrines are among the most common human excreta disposal systems that have been in use for many decades especially in informal settlements. Kanyama is one of the largest informal settlements of Lusaka where pit latrines are largely in use. However, pit latrines have for long been widely associated with environmental pollution. The main aim of the study was to make an ethical evaluation of the impact of the use of pit latrines on the health of the human and natural environment in Kanyama compound. The specific areas that were investigated to achieve the main aim are: the current situation regarding pit latrines in Kanyama; the impact of pit latrines on the residents in Kanyama; the impact of pit latrines on the natural environment in Kanyama and making an ethical evaluation of the findings. A case study design using a qualitative methodology along with an ethical component was used. Primary data was collected using in-depth interviews with 40 heads of households selected by systematic sampling and six key informants purposefully selected, focus group discussions selected by convenient sampling and observations. The six key informants were two officials from the Lusaka City Council (LCC), two officials from Kanyama Water Trust (KWT) and one official from Kanyama clinic. Three focus group discussions were conducted comprising seven discussants in each selected by convenience sampling. Sources of secondary materials involved literature obtained from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) library, University of Zambia (UNZA) library, the School of Education, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), the School of Natural Sciences and online resources. Focusing on the common themes emerging from the data, findings were analysed and discussed, and then evaluated using two ethical theories and two ethical principles namely: Utilitarian theory, the Land Ethic, the Precautionary Principle (PP) and the Principle of the Lesser Evil (PLE). Findings revealed that the majority of Kanyama residents use pit latrines for human waste disposal; that because of the poor water and sanitation situation in the area, the impact of pit latrines on residents was not good, because inappropriate methods for constructing pit latrines and water wells were mostly used and because most pit latrines were constructed close to sources of water; and that although Kanyama residents are aware of the threats posed to the health of the human and natural environment by pit latrines, they still believe that they have no option but to continue using them because they are a better alternative for now. The ethical evaluation revealed a tension between the Land Ethic and the Utilitarian theory as follows: while Utilitarianism would justify the presence and use of pit latrines because the majority of residents benefit from using them despite some negative consequences associated with them, the Land Ethic together with the Precautionary Principle would not justify their existence and use because they run the risk of polluting the environment and of harming human health.. By availing of the Principle of the Lesser Evil, this tension was resolved by concluding that, although pit latrines impact negatively on the human and natural environment in Kanyama, residents still need to use them because they are better alternative than open air urinating and defecation in the short term. Consequently, the following recommendations were made: (i) the LCC should intensify the implementation of the Public Health Regulation (PHR) on drainages and latrines to reduce the risk of pollution in informal settlements; (ii) the LCC should work hand-in-hand with the KWT to improve access by Kanyama residents to piped water; (iii) residents should use appropriate methods for constructing pit latrines and ensure that both pit latrines and shallow wells are lined with concrete blocks to minimise the risks of pollution; and (iv) the public health department of the LCC should provide Kanyama residents with health education and information regarding hygienic use and maintenance of pit latrines.
Toilets--Zambia--Kanyama compound , Outhouses--Zambia--Kanyama compound , Sanitation, Zambia--Kanyama compound