Small towns are characterised by urban settlements that are bigger than villages areas but smaller than cities. They are usually tier two cities and secondary towns. In many regions, small towns are currently experiencing rapid population growth impacting the development of appropriate sanitation service delivery for all.
Sanitation systems in small towns vary – from sewerage to onsite sanitation, with a combination of the two in many cases. Previously, sanitation programmes have focused on large cities or villages and small towns have not received the same attention. While many challenges for programming they face are similar to large cities, they do have some unique problems.
Key challenges include lack of clear institutional frameworks and weak financial capacity. In many cases where responsibility for sanitation service provision is decentralised, local governments are provided with roles and responsibilities but reduced opportunities to access required funds. In more centralised systems, these authorities lack the power or financial capacity to develop and deliver sanitation services.
Sanitation market development is also made more challenging in smaller sized towns due to lack of economies of scale. Many small towns are not big enough to ensure the entire sanitation value remains maintained. Thus, building capacity of local institutions and incentivising public and private investment in sanitation facilities in small towns are important spaces for intervention.