Round table on Mainstreaming Septage (faecal waste) Management- Opportunities and Challenges in India

Existing status of septage management in Indian cities can be ranked to very poor to poor, due to lack of proper guidelines, awareness amongst stakeholders, and lack of knowledge skill and attitude of city managers. Taking this grave situation into account,  Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has made efforts to mainstream septage management in India since. In 2012, CSE published the 7th report- India’s first and most comprehensive survey of water and sewage management in a two volume set publication- “Excreta Matters”. This publication consists of data collected from over 71 cities in India characterized by different agro0climatic zones on all aspects of water management (sourcing, treatment-water & waste, supply etc.

CSE, as a centre of excellence (CoE) also assisted the Ministry of Urban Development, Govt of India for the preparation of strategies and guidelines for the preparation of the National level septage management policy paper. As a result, the Ministry issued the “Advisory note on septage management in Indian Cities” in January, 2013.

In 2014, the centre partnered with a group of institutions active in the field of excreta management to promote excreta flow analysis (septage and sewage) to inform urban sanition programming through the service delivery assessment tool- Shit Flow Diagrams (SFDs), developed by the Water and Sanitationm Programme- World Bank. A SFD is a tool to readily understand and communicate visualizing how excreta physically flows through a city or town. It also shows how excreta is or is not contained as it moves from defecation to disposal or end-use and the fate of all excreta generated. Till date, CSE has prepared SFDs for 11 cities in India (Delhi, Dewas, Srikakulum, Solapur, Tiruchirapalli, Tumkur, Aizwal, Gwalior, Agra, Bikaner and Cuttack). 

These efforts have now set up the tone for policy reforms in the field of septage management in India. In order to scale up interventions, state sanitation programmes such as Swacch Bharat Mission (SBM) and AMRUT have been implemented to capacitate states in the area of sanitation. However, the capacity building of professional manpower is essential for successful implementation and operation and maintenance of sanitation facilities. CSE is a designated Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Sustainable Water Management Area supported by Ministry of Urban Development under the Capacity Building of Urban Local Bodies (CBULB).  With the objective to mainstream septage management in India, CSE has taken the initiative to compile a “practitioner’s guide on septage management” in order to aid policy makers, practitioners, ULB officials, consultants or researchers to mainstream septage management.

As a preliminary step, CSE recently organized a roundtable meeting cum panel discussion on “Mainstreaming Septage (faecal waste) Management – Opportunities and challenges in India”. 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 toolkits.

Aim & Objectives of Roundtable
To create a platform for cross-learning concepts and case studies of septage management for implementation in India.


  • To engage state and non-state actors for technical advisory and feedback on mainstreaming septage management in India

  • To present international and national case studies of septage management and  discuss valuable strategies and techniques to implement on ground

  • To outline the existing challenges and opportunities of septage management implementation  

Date: February 4th, 2016,
Venue: Casuarina Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

The roundtable involved eminent speakers which deliberated about the challenges and potential opportunities for mainstreaming septage (faecal waste) management in urban India. The initial discussion revolved around the process of moving the waste management paradigm on a larger scale. Mr. J.B. Ravinder (Advisor, CPHEEO) explained key issues and challenges that need to be addressed for this shift to occur. He explained that the regulations, policies and standards exist however challenges such as lack of data and no authority for monitoring and compliance hinder progress.

Ms. Sunita Narain (Director General, CSE) further insisted on the challenging process required for this paradigm shift. She further stressed on the need for looking for a creative solution such as decentralized models. Ms Narain highlighted the importance of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) where these programmes can play a huge role in improving the sanitation situation of the country. Apart from incentivizing communities to build toilets, there is also a focus on connecting households to the main treatment system, which if done successfully, the programmes could impact 60% of urban population of the country. Furthermore, there was heavy emphasis given to operation and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure / services post construction, as it is largely neglected by local governments.

Mr. Narayan Bhat (CEO, The Right Angle) focused on the benefits of expanding the faecal sludge management business in India. He explained the two missing gaps of business models of septage extraction and disposal. He specified the existing weak regulation for safety of workers not wearing safety gears that needs to be addressed. The second aspect is disposal. There is no defined place for disposing septage – open areas, drains, water bodies and sewerage system which are dangerous to the environment. Mr. Bhat highlighted the importance of private and public partnerships to work together to make septage management a sustainable and viable. 

Ms. Sushmita Sinha (Senior Technial Advisor, BORDA) explained that the issues and challenges that India, and in fact all developing countries face are quite similar. One of the central issues that was stressed upon was the access to appropriate technology, where at present municipalities chose treatment methods that may not fit in the context of their respective city / town. She explained how these municipalities have to be sensitized or given exposure to different types of treatment technologies / methodologies to progress in this field. Furthermore, Ms. Sinha discussed the importance of capacity building of officials in the field as at present there is a lack of skilled labor / officials in this field who are aware of the technicalities of septage management. 

The fact that there is still no solution which is technically financially and socially viable at a city wide scale to address the sanitation situation in India was again highlighted by Mr Dirk Walther (Programme Director, GIZ). He further discussed that there is too much focus on “technology” than the actual “process” to achieve sustainable sanitation. Mr. Walther furthermore empahsised on the need for cities to form a city sanitation task force (CSTF) in order to address sanitation issues at micro scale.  

To conclude, Ms Narain explained how faecal sludge management is part of the puzzle that needs to be cracked with proper regulation and enforcement, where solutions will have to evolve in different ways as we cannot follow the same trajectory as that of developed nations. 

For more information kindly contact:

Dr Suresh Kumar Rohilla
Programme Director
Centre for Science and Environment