Inmates at a prison on the East coast of Africa are pioneering a sanitation project that would work with nature to neutralize human wastes.
According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), apart from wastewater management, the project is to assess using the wetland- filtered water for irrigation and fish farming, giving prisoners a new source of protein or sold to local markets, alternative livelihoods.
Part of the so-called 'black wastewater' with high concentrations of human waste will also be used for the production of biogas.
The biogas can be used as a fuel for cooking, heating and lighting thereby cutting electricity bills, saving the prison service money and cutting emissions from the 4,000-strong jail, including staff and in-mates, to the atmosphere.
Sewage pollution, a great deal of which ends up in coastal waters, is estimated to cause four million lost 'man-years' annually in terms of human ill-health-equal to an economic loss of 16 billion dollars a year.
In many developed countries, part of the answer over the past half century has been found in ever more sophisticated, multi-million dollar water treatment works.
But as the new project at the Shimo la Tewa jail in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa highlights there are other, less costly ways of addressing the same problem with important spin-offs.
The initiative, involving the development of a wetland to purify sewage, is expected to cost a fraction of the price of high-tech treatments while also triggering scores of environmental, economic and social benefits.
The sewerage collection and wetland purification system, plus labour and construction costs and including upgrading of sanitary facilities inside the prison amount to some 110,000 dollars or 25 dollars per person served something of a bargain.
The project is likely to have benefits for wildlife including birds and marine organisms.
Thus, it can play a part in assisting to achieve the global target of reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010.