GIZ Urban Nexus, Bilfinger, and ICLEI Southeast Asia hold 2nd Vacuum Sewerage System Technical Training in Manila

Forty-eight participants from local governments, national government agencies, and the private sector attended the 2nd Vacuum Sewerage System (VSS) Technical Training held on November 4-5 in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. The two-day technical training provided participants with an understanding of how the VSS works and the feasibility of using the technology in the Philippines.

GIZ Urban Nexus and ICLEI Southeast Asia Secretariat (ICLEI SEAS), in partnership with Bilfinger Water Technologies, organized this training under the project, ‘Integrated Resource Management in Asian cities: The Urban Nexus’. Dr. Michael Guertler and Mr. Irineus Kubek represented Bilfinger and served as resource persons. During the discussion, it was highlighted that VSS are considered to have the lowest carbon footprint in any municipal sewerage system. Since the system collects wastewater by vacuum, adverse environmental impacts are reduced in the process. Part of the training included a discussion of specific case studies which have successfully piloted the system. Moreover, the link between wastewater, energy generation, and agriculture was elaborated.

This technical training zeroed in on the importance of innovative wastewater systems, adapted to the requirements of the 21st century marked by growing scarcity of water, energy, food security and land (the ‘nexus’ sectors). Hence, it is vital to consider the separation of black, grey, and storm water to produce energy, fertilizer, as well as service and irrigation water, ‘closing the loop’ between the nexus sectors.

During a roundtable discussion facilitated by Ms. Ruth Erlbeck, Urban Nexus Project Director, Mr. Alexander Castro of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as well as Mr. Catalino Jose of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) both expressed appreciation for the technology and how they are now “equipped with more knowledge on technology options in tackling wastewater concerns.” Both also emphasized that “local context is important when selecting [the appropriateness of any] technology, such as the VSS.” The panellists however agreed that for settlements on sea (stilts), VSS is the only viable option to improve sanitation. Ms. Anne Aubrey Bugtong, representing the Zamboanga City Water District, requested that their sanitation situation (settlements on sea) be further investigated in order to apply the VSS.

The two Urban Nexus pilot cities in the Philippines, Santa Rosa and Naga, reiterated their intent to apply the VSS in some of the infrastructure projects that they are currently working on in partnership with GIZ. Laguna Water Company, a private concessionaire, confirmed that it will assist Santa Rosa in this effort.

Training participants included representatives from highly urbanized cities (HUCs) qualified for national government assistance for their sewerage programs, including Baguio, Zamboanga, Iligan, Puerto Princesa, Davao, and Butuan City; government-owned and controlled corporations; the Bicol State College of Applied Science and Technology, a partner of Naga City for their Nexus initiatives; and land developers in Santa Rosa City working on wastewater management. The 1st VSS Technical Training was held in Bangkok, Thailand in February.

The Urban Nexus project, which adheres to the principle of holistic and integrated urban planning, is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ. ICLEI SEAS serves as implementation partner in Philippines and Indonesia. The project runs until December 2015.

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Ms. Ruth Erlbeck, GIZ Urban Nexus Project Director, moderates a discussion on the applicability of the vacuum sewerage system in the Philippines with selected training participants.