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Combining private initiative and public responsibility for sustainable sanitation and recycling stra

After graduating in my first Master in Civil Engineering (specialized in geotechnics), in Portugal, after 5 years of studying, I went to Germany and started my work life as an environmental engineer. There, in Frankfurt, I was employed by TBW GmbH.

​The core of my work was to plan and to build anaerobic biogas plants in developing countries within a public and private investment framework. These were low budget solutions to improve both local energy independence and sanitation.

​Inadequate or even lack of sanitation is a key social, health and environmental problem in the majority of countries. Public programs are insufficient and do not reach the majority of the population. Private initiative alone often only serves a few, who then mostly remain affected by those without suitable sanitation and do not get their co-operation. Lack of finance for investment and operation, lack of integration into dwelling and economic activity, resulting often in unsuitable technical and environmental approaches, and a lack of participation, can sometimes be overcome if public and private actors manage to co-operate and agree upon a suitable division of labour and framework of responsibilities, and thus turn sanitation into a joint development priority, which can then help as well to save and reuse valuable water, nutrient and energy resources.

There are uncountable hindrances of Public-Private Partnerships for truly cost-efficient sanitation. However there is little alternative. My work at TBW, and within a number of projects, made some substantial progress on that rocky road to combine private initiative and public responsibility and participation with more sustainable sanitation and recycling strategies.

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