United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Smart Sanitation for Water Settlements

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (
Non-governmental organization (NGO)

    Malaysia has a total of 4,675 km of coastal line with East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) having a 2,607 km coastal line. Evers (2015) estimated there are 10,185 water village homes in Sabah. The Smart Sanitation for Water Settlements is a demonstration project between UNEP and Action Caring Team (M) Bhd (ACT Malaysia) under the GW²I hosted by the GPA, UNEP. It uses the ISTP technology in a water settlement located at Sabah Marine National Park in Malaysia. It also promotes the self-empowerment of local communities to preserve their natural environment and support marine-related economic activities. As a result, the livelihood of the water villagers is expected to improve.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    Activities in the demonstration project can be divided into two major components. Part 1 involves the project’s physical in-situ installation of 200 tanks. Part 2 involves a 24 months period of research and development (R&D) where monitoring, assessment, and the development of guidelines will take place. PART 1: Demonstration Project (12 months) 1.1. Pilot Installation (6 months). This phase encompasses the installation of 10 tanks and the training of 10 village residents. This allows the parties involved to familiarize themselves with the wastewater treatment technology. Furthermore, this phase will seek to improve the installation of tanks in terms of minimum viable team formation, necessary equipment and support system, in-situ delivery system, and to predict and mitigate installation challenges. 1.2. Demo Project Installation (6 months) The Demonstration Project aims to 1) establish a community business strategy and integrated wastewater-seaweed management system for selected water villages in collaboration with local communities; 2) create and prepare farming plots with water villagers; 3) supply and install of remaining 190 tanks involving one water village located in the Sabah Marine National Park. The tank installation will be conducted by the 10 trained village residents who may hire new trainees to assist them. Finally, the project will contribute to the establishment of a seaweed processing facility at a selected water village in the proximity. PART 2: Research and Development (24 months) This part covers the research and development aspect of the project, educational training as well as the monitoring of activities focusing on technology, community development, and policy framing.


    The project has just started and at the end of year 1, it is expected to train 10 residents on installation and maintenance of the tanks; install 200 ISTP tanks and develop 20 acres of seaweed and aquaculture farms together with a mini seaweed processing facility fully equipped. At the end of year 3, the project expects to see an increase of seaweed harvest by 50%, increase of eco-tourism revenue by 30%, and improve water villagers' income by RM1000/month. The long-term impacts of the project are foreseen on both marine life and on the life of the water communities involved. The ISTP technology is expected to reduce pollution. Local villagers are expected to benefit from this project, which aims to create a conducive space for sustainable economic growth.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    Action Caring Team (M) Bhd (ACT Malaysia) and Oceanori Industries are members of the Global Wastewater Initiative hosted by UNEP’s Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA). ACT Malaysia has worked closely with UNEP to involve multiple stakeholders with different interests to work towards the objectives of the project. The demonstration project requires close working relationships with the state of Sabah and the federal government of Malaysia. University Putra Malaysia and University Malaysia Sabah will cover the research and development part of the project.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The demonstration project is expected to develop standards and policies that will contribute to upscaling such intervention in other contexts. The project team looks forward to extending the project to other countries with similar contexts.

    Other sources of information

    BeritaRTM. Penyelidik UPM hasilkan i-STP rawat sisa kumbahan di perkampungan air. Written by BeritaRTM and published in Teknologi on 28th June 2016. Available at https://berita.rtm.gov.my/index.php/teknologi/6437-penyelidik-upm-hasilkan-i-stp-rawat-sisa-kumbahan-di-perkampungan-air Azman Zakaria. 2016. Treating sewerage in outlying areas. Published at https://phys.org/news/2016-07-sewerage-outlying-areas.html on 6 July 2016. Ooi May Sim. 2016. Treating waste better. Published on 3 July 2016 at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2016/07/03/treating-waste-better. Oceanori Industries at https://oceanori.com/ National Radio Television (RTM) 1, program on Independant Sewerage Treatment Plant (iSTP) on 30th October 2017, 7.00 pm, on RTM TV1 in “Do-It” series titled “D-Tek Inovasi Sistem Kumbahan” available on youtube on 15th August 2019 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NagjfG2efZI Malaysian Startup Team Wins First Place at GIST APEC Startup Training in Australia https://www.gistnetwork.org/malaysian-startup-team-wins-first-place-gist-apec-startup-training-australia 2016 winners of the International Innovation & Research Awards announced at https://www.ciob.org/media-centre/news/2016-winners-international-innovation-research-awards-announced

    COVID-19 Impact

    COVID-19 has some impacts on the implementation schedule. The site where the first 10 tanks are expected to be installed is currently off-limits and the project team is not allowed to travel within Malaysia. For this reason, a two-month extension of the pilot project was requested.

    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    01 August 2020 (start date)
    30 April 2021 (date of completion)
    ACT Malaysia
    Other beneficiaries

    The beneficiaries are the 200 households on Gaya Island, Sabah located in the Sabah Marine National Park. The organizations involved are UNEP, MIGHT (Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology) and MAGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre), JV Drivers, Action Caring Team (M) Bhd, and OceaNori Industries. Academic institutions such as the University Putra Malaysia and University Malaysia Sabah are also involved.

    More information
    Contact Information

    Riccardo, Associate Programme Officer