As per Centre for Science and Environment, between 70-90% of human waste goes untreated into the environment in the 75 cities surveyed.Faecal sludge is any human excreta and water mixture that bears disease-carrying bacteria and pathogens that need to be safely treated before disposal into the environment.Faecal sludge management is the system in cities that safely collects, transports and treats faecal sludge and septage from pit latrines, septic tanks or other on-site sanitation systems. A sound faecal sludge management system is of utmost importance in densely populated areas, where most residents are often not connected to conventional sewer networks.
- The sludge is most often collected by unorganized private service providers who use vacuum pumps or other types of pumps loaded onto trucks/vehicles that can enter high-density areas.
- The collected and untreated material is usually dumped in the nearest water body or open area, sometimes even in farmer fields. This is hazardous to safe and healthy living.
- These providers areneither incentivised nor regulated to take the sludge to a safe location for disposal.
- It has to be noted that responsibility of providing effective faecal sludge management lies with local governments, water authorities, water utilities, in partnership with formal or informal private service providers.
ACTION NEED TO BE TAKEN-
- For efficacious citywide sludge management, faecal sludge should be collected on a scheduled route instead of on-demand /call-for-service basis. This will create de-sludging to be a sustainable business for service providers.
- For alternatives to conventional treatment systems, non-networked and innovative treatment systems and technologies should be used by cities. These include
- Constructed wetlands
- Anaerobic digestion and waste stabilization ponds
- Co-treatment in sewage treatment plants
- These solutions together result in effective faecal sludge management treatment that is practicable both from an economic and operations stand point.
- There is a strong push by the national government to provide technical assistance to states and cities to design and implement effective faecal sludge management systems for their citizens.
- This will also equally requireactive cooperation of citizens else private service providers, city planners and administration will not be able to give effective and sustainable faecal sludge management.
- The citizens have to ensure that there is regular de-sludging of their septic tanks, ensuring that no untreated sludge leaks into their immediate environment. They should also regularly pay for the cleaning services provided by government.
- Similarly, the service providers should ensure quality services to citizens by not dumping untreated waste into the environment. They have to ensure high maintenance of their vehicles, ensuring that service personnel are adequately protected from contamination and that there are no leakages during desludging operations.
- Municipalities need to create facilities for
- safe treatment and disposal
- set up the right incentives and disincentives for adhering to safe disposal
- create the right market structures to encourage private sector playersto expand and sustain operations for both de-sludging and treatment.
- There is an urgent need for stakeholders to take the action to tackle the sanitation problems of the cities. Lack of sanitation costs around 6.4% of GDP because of death and disease. India is losing approximately 1000 children everyday to poor sanitation. Thus, effective faecal sludge management is a critical step in saving these lives.