Safe sanitation improves good health, productivity, women’s empowerment and livelihood opportunities

In accordance with the bugle call of the Honorable Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi on the 15the August 2014; over 108 million household toilets have been built with mass participation, providing access to safe sanitation to all communities in rural India during phase I of the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen. Achieving Open Defecation Free (ODF) status has been an incredible achievement the country can be extremely proud of and it has been well documented as a learning experience for other nations.

Nonetheless, if ODF status is to be maintained and sanitation safely managed while supporting human dignity, it is important to go beyond the toilets and consider all components of the health value chain. sanitation, that is, the containment, emptying, transport, treatment and reuse or disposal of faecal waste. . Disposal and treatment of this waste is still a huge third-generation challenge and has huge implications for public health and human safety. This is indeed a serious matter which should leave no room for manual cleaning.

Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) is essential to realizing the vision of an “open defecation free” India and this has been one of our focus areas in Phase II of the Grameen mission. of Swachh Bharat, with the construction of community toilets, the efficient management of solid and liquid waste and visual cleanliness of the villages. FSM is essential for providing safe sanitation in rural areas due to the huge number of sanitation related toilets on site, such as septic tanks and simple pits.

The Faecal sludge treatment plant (FSTP) in Kalibillod The village of Indore district in Madhya Pradesh is an example worth emulating. Designed to accommodate a population of 45,870 inhabitants living in a group of 3 Gram Panchayats adjoining an industrial town of Pitampura, the FSTP plant which was built with local materials has a capacity to process 3 kiloliters of faecal sludge per day. Secure collection is carried out by a qualified service provider using an emptying vehicle capable of transporting 3000 liters of sludge per day. After a structured process of passing the faecal sludge through a screening chamber and a vegetated drying bed, the dried solid can be used for co-composting in the same premises with a solid waste separation shed. During this time, the liquid effluent passes through a planted gravel filter, a polishing basin and the treated effluent is used in the installation for landscaping. Operation and maintenance of the plant which was built at an all inclusive cost of Rs. 32 lakhs is competently managed by the gram panchayat.

There are similar functional projects in some other states. However, since sewage systems are virtually non-existent in rural India, there is a need for more emphasis on the safe management of faecal waste generated by on-site containment systems. Some technologies, such as twin leach pits, provide on-site treatment and, if properly constructed and operated, can be safely emptied and reused at the household level. Other technologies, such as simple tanks, septic tanks require emptying services and transporting faecal sludge to treatment facilities for their reuse or subsequent disposal.

This emphasizes the need to look beyond the toilet and ensure that faecal pathogens are prevented from re-entering the environment and posing a health risk. A common route for faecal pathogens to return to the environment is the contamination of water bodies and groundwater, through overflows and seepage from poorly constructed sanitation systems.

These problems are further exacerbated by the lack of formal mechanized service providers for sludge emptying, transport and disposal. There is a predominance of small informal entrepreneurs for these roles, which makes it difficult to monitor their collection and disposal processes and, therefore, institutionalizing best practices and regulations can be difficult. In addition, the lack of resources such as vacuum trucks, safety equipment, qualified personnel hamper the provision of services to households.

That said, the most preferred toilets built under the SBM-I are double pit toilets. The double leachate pit latrine is easy to build, use and maintain. When one of the twin pits is full, it can be emptied at household level without any outside support or additional cost.

The proper functioning of the toilets can be ensured by converting (renovating) all single-pit toilets to double-pit toilets; as well as the repairs which need to be carried out for the superstructure, the foundations, the Y-chamber and the pit. In the case of toilets connected to septic tanks, it is important to construct a leachate tank to safely dispose of partially treated wastewater leaving the tank.

The Indian government, in February 2020, approved Phase II of the Swachh Bharat (Grameen) mission (SBM [G]) with a total expenditure of Rs. 1,40,881 crore to focus on the sustainability of open defecation free status (ODF) and solid and liquid waste management (SLWM). The program will continue to work to ensure that no one is left behind and that everyone uses a toilet.

SBM II recommends that faecal sludge treatment be planned for groups of villages, where the district needs to quantify the faecal sludge generated, identify suitable land, and it is imperative to choose a technology that is low cost and easy to use and maintain. .

The theme for World Toilet Day 2021 is ‘Valuing the toilets. ‘ The campaign draws attention to the fact that toilets – and the sanitation systems that support them – are underfunded, poorly managed or neglected in many parts of the world, with devastating consequences for health, the economy and the environment, especially in the poorest and most marginalized. communities.

As we celebrate World Toilet Day, I encourage you to take action in your respective areas to tackle the global sanitation crisis and help our country achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6: Water and sanitation for all by 2030. Because when we invest in safe sanitation, we can improve health and productivity, increase women’s empowerment and create livelihood opportunities.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.


Mara R. Wilmoth