Workshop attended by experts from India and South Africa
Experts say current faecal management wastes water which also leads to shortage of drinking water
People are exposed to faecal matter due to current faecal management system
‘Flush and dispose’ system creates downstream challenges with regard to water quality
New Delhi, February 4: With increasing urban populations, a sanitation crisis is growing. A large amount of water is used in flushing human waste away in the method even as large numbers do not have access to toilets while cities across the world are reeling from a water shortage. “New technology and knowledge-sharing are essential to ensure that urban communities learn from each other and come up with solutions that are sustainable,” said Suresh Rohilla, CSE’s Water Programme Director. He was speaking at the India-South Africa Knowledge Sharing Workshop on Sustainable Water Solutions for Future.
The knowledge-sharing workshop brought together key functionaries from Water Research Commission – WRC, the knowledge centre for water -related innovation in South Africa, RAND Water (the largest bulk water utility in Africa), South Africa Department of Science and Technology and South Africa Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation. Participants from India included representatives from the Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Ministry of Water Resources, state governments and urban local bodies, leading academics, researchers and independent experts involved in sustainable water–wastewater/septage management. The workshop focus was on mainstreaming faecal waste management and mainstreaming water-sensitive urban design and planning – opportunities and challenges.
Rohilla said CSE’s programme efforts had been directed towards meeting the twin goals of laying the foundations for a water-prudent society and adapting for climate resilience. “We believe this experience needs to be leveraged to share solutions with other countries in the developing world from South America, Africa and Asia to meet the needs of urban populations in the current water and wastewater paradigm which are affordable and sustainable,” he said.
Discussing technology for eliminating waste at the source, Dhesigen Naidoo from WRC said the provision of full waterborne systems may not be realistic or achievable in the short term, and even in the long term in many developing countries. What was needed was the next- generation toilet technology and move away from the current ‘flush-and-dispose’ and ‘drop-and-store’ models. It was envisaged that the new generation of technologies would eliminate human waste at source. “We cannot continue to flush away valuable and scarce fresh water, creating more downstream challenges in terms of water treatment and water quality,” he said.
Jayant Bhagwan from WRC highlighted some of the new innovation and tools in the management of faecal sludge by the Ethekweni Metro. “The model also saw human waste as a resource,” he said.
A CSE analysis said that for the past many years, countries of the developing world were struggling to find solutions to the immediate problems of poverty, hunger, water scarcity, pollution and climate change. It was important, therefore, to interlink global experience.
The roundtable meetings engaged with policy makers and practitioners, academics and experts involved in advocacy on sustainable water management in India aimed towards developing state of art policy brief, technical advisory and practitioners.
Christine Moe from Emory University said rapid urbanization in urban and peri-urban areas of low-income countries had led to a growing sanitation crisis. Despite the considerable sanitation needs of urban and peri-urban communities, there was little data to inform strategies to mitigate risks of faecal exposure in developing countries. Consequently, there is a need for site-specific evidence to help make decisions about sanitation investments. The Center for Global Safe Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene at Emory University has developed The SaniPath Tool to assess exposure to faecal contamination in low-resource urban settings to inform advocacy, prioritize investments, and respond to complex urban sanitation needs.
Rohilla’s presentation showed that the current method of faecal management was capital-intensive and created and maintained a divide between the rich and the poor and was also natural resource-intensive (used water first to flush, then to carry the waste). CSE also presented a case study on Dwarka, a sub-city of Delhi. “Inadequate water supply in this area results in exploitation of ground water. Besides, Dwarka also suffers from flooding,” said Rohilla.
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