Policy working towards faecal sludge treatment
Chennai: One third of the 60,000 children, who die globally, due to lack of proper sanitation are from India, something that the National Urban Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSSM) Policy in India, under the Ministry of Urban Development's aegis, aims to tackle.
Only about 62.5 per cent of the wastewater in India is treated before its disposal. Also, a major chunk of problem arises from a lack of a centralized system for disposing of the faecal sludge from the toilets, that leads to black water (sewage containing harmful pathogens) to mix with grey water (water disposed of after cleaning, washing, and that doesn’t contain pathogens).
“Though, even though many rural areas have onsite sanitation systems, there is no means of treatment and disposal of the sewage and septage. According to the data from the Central Pollution Control Board, 70percent of the sludge produced in India goes untreated,” said Madhu Krishna, Senior Program Officer at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on the sidelines of the Faecal Sludge Management conference in Chennai.
Thus, most of the black water ends up in the river bodies and natural resources, causing a heath risk to people. The issues to be dealt at, she said, is having a proper containment for the fecal matter from household toilets and secondly, periodic extraction and safe disposal of the sludge from the containment.
“It should start from the household and be safe for the workers transporting the sludge, with the provision of protective gear to them,” she added.
Doulaye Kone, chair of the Faecal Sludge Management conference, said that focusing on sustainability and costs, the returns of the sludge will be water that could be given back to communities for purposes like gardening, cleaning and washing, and the solid remnants as compost and be used by them. “Also, the treated sludge can be used as a source of power from biogas. Sustainable and affordable models are being tested with commercial partners at various sites, which will be localized for the Indian country,” he added.
The need for India is small, decentralised fecal treatment plants, which would benefit from the high population density in the country, Madhu added.
But since the faecal disposal and treatment project was proposed in 2014, none of the private players came forward due to not getting cent percent return on investment, said Puneet Srivastava, Manager –Policy, Water Aid.
“There is a need to regulate the sanitation facilities by private players in the large informal sector as the utility management lies with the local urban bodies,” he added.