skip to content

MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Development of a Novel Plan for Emptying Pit Latrines in Urban Slums

NS Sharpe

Development of a Novel Plan for Emptying Pit Latrines in Urban Slums

More than half of the world’s population lives without access to improved sanitation facilities. In the slums of cities in developing countries around the world, the main form of sanitation is a pit latrine. Due to the unplanned nature of most of these developments, conventional methods of emptying these latrines cannot function, and people are forced to manually empty the latrines using unsafe, unsanitary, and socially stigmatizing methods. Some alternatives exist, but are either too costly or poorly implemented to combat this problem. A new method of emptying latrines, whereby a small volume is extracted on a weekly basis, is explored and the associated benefits explained. Additionally, a new technology for emptying pit latrines using this new method is developed which improves upon previous emptying devices. To ensure that such a device would actually have an impact, a business plan and method of implementation and expansion of the technology is described.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.