Masters student with the Pollution Research Group (PRG) in UKZN’s School of Engineering, Ms Lungi Zuma, recently attended Parliament in Cape Town as a special guest of the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Ms Nomvula Makonyane.
Zuma’s invitation to hear the Minister’s Budget Speech followed the student’s involvement and assistance at the Water and Sanitation Indaba held in Durban last month.
During the Indaba, Minister Makonyane visited various sites around the eThekwini Municipality where she was shown solutions to the city’s sanitation problems. One of her stops was the Newlands Mashu Research Site, which Zuma manages. Zuma and other students involved in pilot research projects there showcased their projects and described to the Minister how their solutions – including low-flush toilets and urine diversion toilets – have the potential to solve some of the region’s water treatment and sanitation problems.
Zuma also chaired a session based on the discussion of health and hygiene education at the Indaba and presented the findings from that session at the plenary.
The Minister’s Budget Speech in Parliament following the Indaba was entitled: ‘What If This was the Last Drop? It’s Not all about Flushing, and focused on the National Development Plan and how sanitation and conservation of water resources play a role in providing security and comfort for South Africa’s citizens.
Makonyane mentioned Zuma’s role in managing the Newlands Mashu site and the collaborative, interdisciplinary research which takes place there.
Zuma, who is about to submit her dissertation, conducted her Masters research on the topic of characterising the pit latrine contents from different types of on site sanitation systems. She says identifying these characteristics will be helpful for engineers to design treatment processes for sludge and new toilet systems as well as having the potential for the end use of the sludge in agriculture or as a fuel.
She is currently employed by eThekwini Water and Sanitation as a Senior Chemical Engineer, where her focus is mainly on research. At the site she manages, there are several pilot projects on new sanitation technologies and the recycling of nutrients in agriculture being researched by various Masters and PhD students from UKZN and the Durban University of Technology. The researchers also work with the German NGO. BORDA, and another company, Herring.
Zuma was attracted to the field of chemical engineering and sanitation because of what she describes as the social aspect of this work.
‘I love that I can use my technical engineering and management skills to solve some of the world’s problems, to make people’s lives better and to protect the environment.’