Virtual Round Table: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas

Rural Water Waste Unit had organized a virtual Round Table discussion on March 18, 2021 to understand where the country stands in managing the faecal sludge in rural areas. The meeting had brought together all the key stakeholders to interact and help in strategizing the ways to bring about safe sanitation in rural India.

Construction of toilets on such a large scale under Swachh Bharat Mission since 2014 requires a serious thinking on safe containment and management of liquid waste from the toilets. In rural areas where on-site containment is the only solution, an emphasis on correct toilet designs and management of liquid waste from the toilets as well as bathrooms is needed to move towards safe sanitation. Wrong choice of technologies, suboptimal construction, and clear neglect of local geography often led to leaking of black water into the ground and surface water. 

The meeting brought together the administrators, non-profits, implementers, donors, health experts and researchers working on the issue of safe sanitation. The meeting was moderated by Dr. Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment. Expert panel comprised of Yugal Joshi, Director, SBM, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, : Joe Mediath, Founder, Gram Vikas, Rohit Kumar Singh, IAS Additional Chief Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, Rajasthan, Sujoy Mojumdar, WASH Specialist, UNICEF, Raghava Neti, Senior Infrastructure Specialist, South Asia Water Global Practice, and Xavier Chauvot De Beauchene, Lead, Water and Sanitation, World Bank and Dr. Vishal Ravi, IAS, Commissioner, Rural Drinking Water and Sanitation Department, Karnataka. CSE presented its research on the state of toilets and management of faecal sludge in Alwar district of Rajasthan to set the tone of the meeting. The roundtable had around 40 participants to discuss the issue.

It was concluded that the following steps are required to move towards safe sanitation in rural areas:

  1. Need to have a better tracking system for faecal sludge management
  2. Different treatment systems to treat faecal sludge should be available
  3. Only treated sludge should be disposed
  4. Retrofitting of wrongly designed toilets is always not favourable due to lack of money and availability of land. In those cased partially or untreated sludge from a cluster of villages should be transported to nearby treatment plants
  5. Insitu treatment of faecal sludge is the most favourable option for rural areas
  6. There is a need to capacitate the District, Block and PRI officials on the issues of faecal sludge management