Green Infrastructure for Sanitation in Settlements in the Global South: A Narrative Review of Socio-Technical Systems

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In the developing economies of the Global South, a fundamental challenge in the transition of settlements from rural or periurban to urban is increased environmental contamination as a result of poor sanitation and sanitation management. With governments’ limited ability to connect all neighbourhoods to a city’s existing municipal water, sewerage and other services, decentralised approaches using green infrastructure offer potential to address this challenge. In addition, green infrastructure might facilitate a move towards a holistic response to manage the full water cycle. This paper presents a narrative review of green infrastructure projects, involving constructed wetlands or their variants for wastewater treatment, within vulnerable communities in the Global South. It describes the scale and scope of each project, identifies the challenges of implementation, and reflects on their outcomes for different stakeholder groups. The review demonstrates that decentralised sanitation programs using constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment can provide a range of advantages/benefits/services, dependant on the specific sociocultural, political and biogeophysical contexts of each. Issues of governance and sociocultural appropriateness, rather than technical issues, challenged the implementation of green infrastructure for sanitation in these projects. Projects must be a collaboration between the government, nongovernment organisations and the community. Whether the project is organised from top-down or bottom-up, community consultation is essential. Context will determine the role of the community in the consultation process and the type of information required to guide the design, implementation and governance of the system. In every project to provide decentralised sanitation systems, the community must be participants, not simply beneficiaries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2071
Number of pages21
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021


  • Coproduction
  • Decentralised
  • Global South
  • Green infrastructure
  • Sanitation
  • WASH
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Water sanitation and hygiene
  • Water sensitive

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