Fecal sludge and septage management in India

Posted by Global technology interface on August 03, 2021

It was a commendable and proud feat for India when in October 2020, the government declared that close to 99% of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and 100% of rural India have achieved Open Defecation Free status. While we cannot deny the fact that India has made massive developments in its determination to provide improved sanitation to its people, there are still many questions around its sustenance and linkage to a complete sanitation solution. Building toilets is one of the initial step that has been undertaken, but the India’s real success would lie in achieving the SDGs that link Water and Sanitation as a whole by 2030.


As on today, a substantial amount of sewage (black water) goes untreated and flows back into the ecosystem, water bodies which can potentially lead to the spread of disease-causing pathogens that are harmful for the environment and public health. Sustainable sanitation systems combined with facilities and knowledge to practice good hygiene are a strong defence against COVID-19 and future disease outbreaks. Henceforth, there is an imperative need for the country to move beyond the toilet infrastructure and start centering on treatment of waste and wastewater.


Compared to centralised sewerage systems, Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) is a faster and cost-effective substitute as it goals to fix gaps in the sanitation value chain by tapping into already existing systems and infrastructure, at the local (in-situ) level, in a scientific manner ensuring easy adoption and sustainability over a long term.


Start-ups working in the field of FSM


  • Bengaluru-based Rakesh Kasba and Erica Kasba, have launched a new product JALODBUST, in 2018, through their company Cherries Engineering and Innovation India Pvt Ltd (CEII Pvt Ltd). The product ensures that there is no human intervention during the desludging of fecal sludge from the on-site sanitation facilities (septic tanks). JALODBUST is a system that purposes to rid the participation of human intervention in septic tank cleaning with its IoT based technology and eases operation.


  • Banka BioLoo has innovated a cost-effective process for management of septic tank waste generated in rural and semi urban areas. The model is simple and adaptable. We have successfully piloted this indigenous, innovative solution in Warangal, Telangana, and Rajam, Andhra Pradesh, with a design capacity of 15 kld. The FSTPs meet all Central Pollution Control Board norms that are deployed at multiple locations in India.


  • 374Water, spun out of Duke and originally developed at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, is commercializing the technology by building a product that aims to convert organic waste—such as sewage sludge or food/animal waste—into clean water, carbon dioxide, and nondegradable inorganic materials that can be used as fertilizers. Invented by Dr. Marc Deshusses, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Kobe Nagar, Principal Engineer at the Deshusses’ lab, the invention employs supercritical water oxidation (SCWO), which works by using high pressure and temperature—over 220 times atmospheric pressure and above 374 degrees Celsius, to be exact–to break down complex organic compounds (sludge) into clean water and CO2.


Lately, it’s also encouraging to see how the recent Indian government policies are supporting this. Unlike the grand visions of the past guidelines and initiatives, recent policies and schemes being developed by the Governments are slowly turning the needles towards ground realities – with the focus being on appropriate solutions which are easy-to-implement and maintain on-the-ground. The lately launched policies around Water and Sanitation (WASH) rely largely on all-inclusive Government-funded schemes like the Swachh Bharat Mission, Jal Jeevan Mission, AMRUT etc. each focusing on sanitation coverage, water conservation and urban transformations respectively.


To sum up, some steps are being prepared in the theme on diverse fronts in terms of expertise development and formalising an informal sector, which has been neglected earlier for many years and decades too. However, there are still much to cover with respect to setting universally acceptable and achievable standards for faecal sludge treatment and reuse of end products, creating a list of options of technologies for treatment and encouraging innovations and bringing in start-ups in the area of collection and transportation of faecal sludge. There have been some efforts in a few pockets across each of these areas by different organizations and administrations, but unless it is all tied up and a synergy is brought, real impact may not be visible on ground. Therefore, working in collaboration and fortifying each other’s work is key to sustaining the momentum created by the Swachh Bharat Mission and in ensuring that none of these efforts go down the toilet.

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