SFD WEEK - April 2 to 5, 2019

The SFD week conducted from 2nd to 5th April 2019, was a three day conclave on sanitation that helped around 140 sector players, from across India and beyond, to not only learn from the deliberations that went by throughout the week, but also witness and enjoy the serene atmosphere that AAETI offers.

There were two main objectives of the conclave:

1) To discuss how SFDs (Shit Flow Diagram), done so far, have resulted in achieving advocacy, that they proclaimed it does, and to also contemplate what is the future course of these diagrams

2) To contemplate, once the right noise is made, how can practitioners implement best management practices across the sanitation chain for both wastewater and faecal sludge management to achieve sustainable sanitation

Shit Flow Diagram (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”. 

Sustainable management of water and wastewater is one of the essential prerequisites for development in modern times. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and the International Water Association (IWA), which have been at the forefront in policy and practice of sustainable water-wastewater management, are now coming together to give a stronger push to this issue:” said experts from CSE, as the two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) here.  Signing the MoU, Vairavamoorthy said: “IWA and CSE share a common objective to strengthen the professional capacity for achieving global sustainable development. The MoU would facilitate greater collaboration and co-operation between the two organisations. The areas of collaboration would include research, knowledge production, communication and dissemination and training and capacity building."

The three-day conclave concluded by Ms Sunita Narain on the last day. The honourable delegates also agreed and aligned their thoughts along with Ms Narain. She emphasized that there is a lack of data available to technically plan and further act upon it. There is a need of intense data to monitor the implementation of projects on ground. There is a lack of transparency maintained by technology providers about the cost of the technology, the economics behind it. She added that more clarity is needed for determining the per KLD cost of the technologies to make comparisons during tendering and decide based on the requirement and affordability. Better cost estimates will help in procurement process. She also added to her comment that we need to plan for resource recovery in all our projects to close the loop of nutrient cycle in the environment.