Identify and solve sanitation problems in India with decentralized solutions

As we retrace the direction of the Swachh Bharat mission since 2014, the importance of the toilet, when it comes to the health and well-being of the community, has been paramount. While there has been remarkable progress in the country with cities becoming open defecation-free (ODF), one aspect that is much overlooked is the consequences of using the toilet.

Humans defecate an average of 140 kg of faeces each year and when multiplied by the 1.4 billion people residing in India, it becomes difficult to equate access to toilets with access to sanitation. Eighty percent of this excreta ends up in open ground or in bodies of water. So we need to broaden the debate on comprehensive sanitation and recognize that the safe containment and treatment of human faeces is just as important.

This is where faecal sludge and faecal sludge (FSSM) management becomes relevant. This is the practice of safely containing, emptying and transporting faecal sludge (mixture of human excrement, water and solid waste) and sludge (refers to partially digested faeces) to a factory. treatment.

Let’s understand it step by step:

On-site sanitation system (OSS)

With only a third of the country’s toilets connected to a sewage system, the other way to safely contain liquid human and household waste is to connect them to underground containment systems (like septic tanks).

Emptying

Containment systems should be emptied periodically, using a mechanized dump truck that collects wastes from underground tanks.

Transport and processing

Emptying trucks transport this sludge and sludge to a faecal sludge treatment station (FSTP).

Reuse

To complete the cyclic biological process, treatment by-products which include both water and biosolids can be reused for agricultural purposes. The entire process from containment to the treatment of faecal sludge and faecal sludge, as well as creating an environment for the system to function properly and sustainably, is FSSM.

By identifying early on the need to manage human and household waste, the Indian Government’s Ministry of Urban Development developed a National Policy on FSSMs in 2017, which address holistic coverage of treatment, disposal and reuse. garbage. It is also essential to recognize the need for FSSM from the perspective of its cascading effects on public health, climate and water pollution. Unless contained and safely treated, wastes from toilets that are not connected to a sewer system continue to pollute water bodies, contaminate groundwater resources and exacerbate the crisis. public health. A few Indian states have shown considerable improvement in the treatment of waste from on-site sanitation systems by implementing appropriate policies, regulations and infrastructure. Warangal in Telangana is the first Indian city to implement FSSM regulations. This involved identifying the existing sanitation issues and challenges.

After the identification, training was provided to stakeholders such as masons on the proper construction of septic tanks and private emptying operators on emptying and the use of PPE. Permits have been issued, emptying trucks have been fitted with GPS for real-time tracking via an app. FSTPs were built at a designated point in town for rapid transport of the sludge. A hotline was also launched to allow citizens to access masons and emptying operators and to request technical assistance or to voice their complaints. Odisha was also a pioneer in paving the way for sustainable sanitation practices. The state has excelled in 100% faecal sludge management with the help of strong political will.

Starting with two towns, Dhenkanal and Angul, the management of faecal sludge and sewage sludge in Odisha started in 2015 as part of the Nirmal project. By 2020, the state had succeeded in treating the black water 100%. In addition, the government has realized that more than 30 percent of urban areas have narrow, inaccessible roads – a barrier to large emptying vehicles. Thus, to expand mechanized emptying services, the government has actively engaged in the purchase of mini sump emptying vehicles with a capacity of 1000 liters.

As a result of these successful FSSM implementations, many other cities and states across the country are also executing innovative financing models, using technology, and working with women and transgender communities to ensure inclusive sanitation is achieved. and secure at the core. The process of providing safe and sustainable services throughout the sanitation value chain is therefore successful through multi-stakeholder collaborations between local urban bodies, state government, citizens, private sector actors. and sanitation workers, supported by the right set of governance, technology and training frameworks.

The National Fecal Sludge and Septage Management Alliance (NFSSM Alliance) is one such collaborative body that focuses on creating impact through policy recommendations and support to government at the national and state level enabling delivery of Efficient FSSM services to last mile communities. Today, 60% of India’s urban population depend on OSS, requiring dedicated planning for the FSSM – a model that can easily be implemented, scaled up and replicated across the country with adaptations. according to local needs. In addition to centralized sanitation networks, FSSM is a convenient, adaptable and cheaper method that can allow us to achieve 100% sanitation faster.

The author is associate, Urban Sanitation, Dasra

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