As reported by Inter Press Service, "Brazil: Sanitation for All...in 115 Years," by Fabiana Frayssinet, Dec 3 , 2007 (IPS) --RIO DE JANEIRO - Just 47 percent of the population of Brazil is hooked up to the main sewage system, and at the current rate of public spending on sanitation, universal coverage will be reached when the country celebrates its 300th anniversary of independence, in the year 2122.
That warning was issued by the Instituto Trata Brasil (ITB), a non-governmental group that seeks to mobilise different segments of society in order to achieve universal sanitation in this country of 188 million people.
A study published by the ITB last week shows that Brazil’s sewage network has expanded at a slower pace than services like piped water, garbage collection, and electricity.
Illnesses related to the lack of sanitation have caused around 700,000 hospital admissions a year in Brazil over the past decade, ITB president Luis Felli told IPS.
The Getulio Vargas Foundation carried out the study at the request of the ITB, which has the support of the private sector.
Every day seven children under the age of five die of diarrhea in Brazil. "That is more than 200 deaths a month, the equivalent of one airplane full of children crashing every month in Brazil," said Felli.
The ITB estimates that for every real (equivalent to 57 cents of a dollar) invested in sanitation, 2.28 dollars could be saved in health spending.
And more sanitation also means a reduction in costs overall, since the creation of basic infrastructure would draw in new businesses and industries, which would generate jobs and income, said Felli.
He said that every 57 million dollars spent on sanitation works would generate 30 direct jobs and 20 indirect jobs, as well as permanent jobs once the system began operating.
With an investment of 6.2 billion dollars a year, which is what experts in sanitation say is needed, 550,000 new jobs would be created.
Sewage treatment solutions can sometimes be more simple and less costly than people think, Dr. Carlos Graeff, a specialist in infectious diseases in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, told IPS.
Graeff, a professor at the Pontificia Universidade Católica in Porto Alegre and the president of the Brazilian Society for Parasitology, mentioned the example of an ingenious small-scale treatment system created by a biologist in the southern state of Santa Catarina that cleans sewage up to 80 percent by using three tanks with filters that are connected by pipes.
The communities in the Jacuí Delta, an area of swamps, canals and 16 islands formed where several rivers flow into Lake Guaiba, in Rio Grande do Sul, are attempting to acquire the treatment system through a cooperative in order to remedy the problem of pollution in the delta.
But they have not yet been able to obtain government funding, lamented Graeff, who said the islanders are worried about the spread of schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease caused by several species of flatworm carried by freshwater snails.
Although the people living in the delta - which is a nature reserve - are extremely poor, over the past three decades they have pioneered a garbage collection and treatment system. This shows that if local communities organise around an issue, inexpensive local solutions to the enormous problem of sanitation can be found, said Graeff.
The ITB study was released just before the start of 2008, which the United Nations has declared the International Year of Sanitation.
Among the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the U.N. member countries in 2000 is the goal to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. [source: Inter Press Service]