Over 97 per cent of homes in Kerala's urban areas have toilets, but the state still has a long way to go in its excreta management

Kerala needs to understand how sewage and excreta flow through its cities and identify intervention areas

CSE, GIZ and Suchitwa Mission organise regional conclave and workshop in Thiruvananthapuram on the issue of excreta management in cities

June 29, 2016, Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala): About 97.53 per cent of the households in urban areas of Kerala have a toilet within their residential premises. Almost 57 per cent of these toilets are connected to septic tanks. But these septic tanks do not comply with the national guidelines with reference to their planning, design and construction – which essentially means the state’s cities will continue to struggle to manage their sewage unless they know and understand how the sewage and excreta flows through them: this emerged at a two-day regional conclave-cum-workshop on ‘Excreta management: Mainstreaming SFDs (shit flow diagrams) and decentralised wastewater treatment for urban sanitation programming’ which reached its conclusion here today.

In fact, on its second day, the event focused on planning and designing of ideal septic tanks and sustainable and affordable on-site decentralised wastewater treatment (DWWT) systems.

The conclave-cum-workshop, aimed at underlining the importance of SFDs in mapping excreta of cities from generation to disposal, was jointly organised by the New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE); GIZ, the German provider of international cooperation services for sustainable development; and Suchitwa Mission, the state government’s sanitation and health programme. 

Speaking at the meet, Dr Suresh Rohilla, programme director of CSE’s water management team, said: “Between 2001 and 2011, Kerala witnessed a steep urban growth -- from about 26 per cent to about 48 per cent. With cities bursting at their seams and their populations growing at such a rapid rate, urban sanitation and sewage management have become issues which need immediate intervention. There is an urgent need to know the sewage and septage flows through a city and identify the intervention areas. An excreta flow diagram (also referred to as SFD) is a tool that readily helps in understanding and visually communicating the physical flow of excreta through the city.” 

The event, which was attended by urban local body representatives from Kerala, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, was inaugurated by Dr Vasuki K, executive director, Suchitwa Mission along with Ms Sarah Habarsack, technical expert, GIZ and Dr Suresh Rohilla. The event’s chief guest was Mr S M Vijayanand, the chief secretary of Kerala.

Mr Vijayanand, in his address, pointed out that although cities in Kerala have largely overcome the scourge of human scavenging and built toilets, these toilets need to be better designed. He also said that the workshop will give clarity and form the basis for further discussions on the subject of SFD and cost effective decentralised wastewater treatment systems. It will help urban local bodies to come up with clearer, technically sound plans. 

In her address, Dr Vasuki pointed out that there is a lack of skills among officials in the field of septage management – and hence, capacity building of personnel was a critical area of intervention. Speaking on the same occasion, Ms Habarsack said that the workshop is a step forward of the CSE-GIZ venture of capacitating cities to create their City Sanitation Plans.

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  • Contact for media support: Souparno Banerjee, souparno@cseindia.org, 9910864339