International conference brings together over 100 experts to discuss affordable and sustainable sanitation solutions
Addressed by D S Mishra, secretary, Union ministry of housing and urban affairs; Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, director general, National Mission for Clean Ganga; & Sunita Narain, director general, CSE
April 2, 2019, Nimli (Alwar), Rajasthan: Shit Flow Diagrams (SFD) -- in simple terms, a visual representation (and the concept behind it)of how a city disposes off its excreta – is the centre of the discussions at a one-of-its-kind gathering of global experts being held here, at the Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute. Organised by the New Delhi-based research and advocacy body Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the ‘SFD Week’ – as the conference has been christened – has brought together experts, researchers, stakeholders and regulators from four continents to discuss and debate on what an affordable and sustainable citywide sanitation system should be like.
Opening the conference, Sunita Narain, director general of CSE, said: “A country like India cannot allow a single drop of its precious and limited water to be degraded. But that is exactly what is happening – our rivers and lakes, and our groundwater, are getting increasingly polluted. What we are attempting here in the SFD Week is to join the dots -- see the linkages between our water, our rivers, our sewage, and our wastewater. Our challenge of having a ‘Clean India’ will not be met just by building toilets, but by building entire sanitation systems that are sustainable and affordable for all. Only then will we be able to protect our water.”
Enumerating on the objectives and aims of the conference, Suresh Rohilla, senior director, water and wastewater management programme, CSE said: “Conventional methods of wastewater and sanitation management are capital- and resource-intensive, and hence unaffordable for many cities. How, therefore, are cities coping? Are they doing things differently? The sessions in the SFD Week, covering issues like water security and climate change, tools and approaches for ensuring citywide inclusive sanitation, and best practices, solutions and technologies, will try to answer these and other related questions.”
Speaking in the inaugural session, D S Mishra, secretary, Union ministry of housing and urban affairs, agreed with Narain and pointed out that the government has managed to build 95 per cent of the stipulated number of toilets – but it realises that is not an end in itself. “Much more needs to be done, including bringing in systems to ensure the waste from these toilets does not end up polluting our land and water resources. That is where FSSM – faecal sludge and septage management systems – come in. They are the only cost-effective way of taking care of this waste,” Mishra said.
Among the other speakers at the inaugural session, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, director general, National Mission for Clean Ganga stressed on integrating different types of solutions for an effective urban river management plan. Kala Vairavamoorthy, executive director, International Water Association (IWA), struck a positive note by pointing out that “the next 20 years could witness the golden era in sanitation management, with massive investments in concepts, technologies and processes”.
The SFD Week will continue till April 5, 2019. Said Narain: “All our city ‘shit-flow’ diagrams show that the situation is grim – almost all our cities either do not treat or safely dispose of the bulk of the human excreta they generate. The diagrams, and the concept behind them, give us some idea of where our waste is coming from and where is itgoing – and this knowledge gives us an opportunity to reinvent our entire urban sanitation management systems.”
CSE will issue more press releases on the SFD Week in the coming days.