Bazalgette’s Legacy

Although not widely recognized, Joseph Bazalgette was one the greatest thinkers in England's history. Edward Bazalgette, director of The Sewer King, remarks:

"It's hard to overstate the influence. The building of the sewers was one of the great modernizing projects that helped define not just London as a modern city but the metropolis in general. Remember that he also designed the embankment which gives London an expansive and impressive riverfront which with recent developments on the south bank has once again revitalized a large area of central London. The platform for this was Bazalgette's embankment."

Without Bazalgette, London's modernization would have been postponed with costly results, "The 'mess, stench, filth, disease, plagues, pestilence' that had impacted the London area for hundreds of years would have continued even longer!" (Schladweiler). With his contributions, Bazalgette was able to promote England to a clean status. His vast legacy includes helping modernize England and setting an example for sanitation, "all good works -such as Bazalgette's- are recognized and, as such, serve as an example to cities and towns who still needed help in deciding what to do and how to go about doing it! And, Bazalgette's work did indeed serve such a purpose in the late 1800's and thereafter," (Schladweiler).

In today's world, new engineers are looking on how to improve Bazalgette's sewers. Thames Water Company proposed the Tideway Tunnel:

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(Thames Water Official Website).

The company addresses the flaws of Bazalgette's sewers and the benefits of the Tideway Tunnel:

"When their capacity is reached during heavy rainfall, the excess diluted sewage overflows into the tidal River Thames through combined sewer overflows, preventing flooding to parts of London. However, this affects aquatic wildlife by decreasing oxygen in the water and causes potential health risks to river users by increasing levels of bacteria. It can also leave unsightly sewage litter on the river and its surroundings.With increasing urban development, changing weather patterns and an increasing population, these storm overflows have increased. As a leading world city, it is unacceptable for London to continue to discharge untreated sewage into the River Thames, and European law, principally the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, requires improved wastewater treatment standards for the people of London. In March 2007, the Government announced its decision to support the development of the Tideway Tunnel solution. This involves the capture of millions of tonnes of storm sewage to prevent it from entering the River Thames...This will allow for population growth in the area and will result in an improved standard of treated flow from Beckton, boosting water quality in the River Thames" (Thames Water Official Website).

Cholera (most recent) by country. (Nation Master)

"Cholera (most recent) by country"

As the above graph above illustrates,  Brazil currently holds the unwanted title of being the country with the highest number of cholera outbreaks in the world. This can be accounted for Brazil does not have a distinguished sewage system compared to Japan, who is at the bottom of the list with 2.2 percent of its population contracting cholera. Fabiana Frayssinet from IPS Inter Press Service wrote:

"Just 47 percent of the population of Brazil is hooked up to the main sewage system, and at the current rate of public spending on sanitation, universal coverage will be reached when the country celebrates its 300th anniversary of independence, in the year 2122."

The sewer system in Tokyo, Japan. (Toiletology 101).

"The sewer system in Tokyo, Japan"

Bazalgette's actions established a new era for the densely-populated urban city. Thomas Malthus, the famous economist, stated in 1798, "The superior power of population cannot be checked without producing misery or vice."  Not many believed that people can successfully survive in a big city.

"If you time-traveled back to the London of September 1854 and described to some typical Londoners the demographic future that awaited their descendants,  no doubt many would react with horror at the prospect of a 'city planet,' as Stewart Brand likes to call it. Nineteenth-century London was an overgrown, cancerous monster, doomed to implode sooner or later. Two million people crowded into a dense urban core was a kind of collective madness. Why would anyone want to do the same with twenty million?" (Johnson 232)

With his actions, Bazalgette allowed cities to expand. Not only in London, but other major cities were limited by poor sanitation. "When John Snow and Henry Whitehead roamed the urban corridors of London 1854, less than 10 percent of the planet's population lived in cities, up from 3 percent at the start of the century" (Johnson 231). Most of the previous worries of living in a large area are now negated in the modern world:

"Two-thirds of women living in rural areas receive some kind of prenatal care, but in cities, the number is more than ninety percent. Nearly eighty percent of births in cities take place in hospitals or other medical institutions, as opposed to thirty-five percent in the countryside. For those reasons, as you move from rural areas to urban ones, infant mortality rates tend to drop. The vast majority of the world's most advanced hospitals reside in metropolitan centers.  According to the coordinator of the United Nations Global Report on Human Settlements, 'Urban areas offer a higher life expectancy and lower absolute poverty and can provide essential services more cheaply and on a larger scale than rural areas.' For most of the world's nations, living in a city now extends your life expectancy instead of shortening it" (Johnson 232-233).

However in some countries, cholera is still an imminent threat. CNN reported on December 29, 2008:

"As of Sunday, the outbreak had killed 1,564 people, and 29,131 cases had been reported, Gregory Hartl told CNN. These figures represent increases from numbers released Thursday that showed 1,518 deaths and 26,497 cases.

The World Health Organization says the outbreak has affected all of the country's 10 provinces and has spread to neighboring South Africa. It is 'closely linked to the lack of safe drinking water, poor sanitation, declining health infrastructure and reduced numbers of health care staff reporting to work'."

Cholera victims lie in a hospital ward in Harare, Zimbabwe, last week. (CNN).

"Cholera victims lie in a hospital ward in Harare, Zimbabwe, last week"

Although cholera is still present in parts of the world today, Joseph Bazalgette left a lasting impression in combating the disease. As Jon Schladweiler from SewerHistory.org summarizes:

"His legacy: A well designed and constructed regional sewage collection and conveyance system;parts of which are still in day-to-day beneficial service (over 150 years later). The system serves as an example to today's engineers, etc of what can be done - with the right impetus and funding... His "product" was essential for the ongoing growth (and, the betterment of life style and/or longevity) in the London area.  Yes, even without the installation of the sewer system Bazalgette had envisioned and designed, London would have continued to grow (as people were "used" to living in the "mess, stench, and filth" virtually everywhere (including London) in the "middle ages" - but, Bazalgette's systematic/regional approach to sewering the London area allowed the city to grow in a way that people could enjoy a much more healthful and longer life.  And, the Parliment could more routinely open their windows to achieve good air movement/cooling!"

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