Asia-Africa Online Consultation on Faecal Sludge Treatment in Rural Areas

Odisha and Chhattisgarh in India offer successful models where sludge from a group of villages is treated in urban treatment plants; Bangladesh has also made progress in this direction

Find the details of the Consultation click here

New Delhi, February 1, 2022:A 2021 joint monitoring progress report from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that around 50% of the world’s rural areas do not manage their faecal sludge safely. Most rural areas do not have adequate on-site treatment facilities for sludge – so what happens to sludge that cannot be treated on-site due to the lack of technically sound treatment systems? In most cases, untreated sludge is dumped into bodies of water or open areas, contaminating soil as well as water sources and seriously endangering the health and lives of the public.

An Asia-Africa consultation on rural faecal sludge treatment – ​​organized by the New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment (CSE) think tank (India) – presented sustainable case studies from India which, if they are accepted, could be replicated in other parts of the developing world. Experts from Bangladesh, Uganda and India participated in the Consultation.

Speaking at the consultation, SushmitaSengupta, Senior Rural Water and Sanitation Program Officer at CSE, said, “The Covid-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the importance of water drinking water and safe sanitation – regular handwashing is one of the key recommendations to keep the virus at bay This argues in favor of protecting our water sources, especially in rural areas where the majority of our people. Without effective and sustainable systems and technologies for the treatment of faecal sludge, these regions and their inhabitants will remain at the mercy of disease and death.

CSE researchers who have studied closely how rural areas treat faecal sludge, point out that the most widely recommended on-site treatment system for villages in Asia and Africa is the double pit with a honeycomb, but it is not as widely implemented as to be expected. In many villages, simple deep pits or faulty septic tanks (holding tanks) have been made; in many cases, the “water treatment plant” is just a hole in the ground!

Says Sengupta: “CSE researchers studied and gathered information on existing systems and practices in India and other regions – we found that a cluster treatment system, where rural sludge from a group of villages are transported and treated at the nearest urban sewage treatment plants, appears to be an economical and sustainable system.We found such models in two states: Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

“However,” adds Sengupta, “we need to explore more such sustainable models for villages in remote areas, away from urban centers.”

Indian models – Odisha and Chhattisgarh

According to India’s flagship program Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) – Clean India Mission (Rural) – more than 160 million household toilets have been built in rural areas of the country. These toilets would generate approximately 0.06 million tonnes of faeces every day.

Asks Swati Bhatia, Program Manager, Rural Water and Sanitation, CSE: “The question is, can all these toilets tackle this huge amount of faecal sludge that is being produced. The toilets that are built need to be technically sound to be able to do this – but our field studies tell us that they are not. The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation indicates that if on-site treatment of faecal sludge does not occur or is carried out partially, it is necessary to treat the faecal sludge in a treatment plant – off-site – before their subsequent disposal. The question we are trying to answer here is what might be the best institutional model for dealing with off-site sludge? »

In Odisha, the state government has taken an important step towards finding a solution in 2020, issuing a directive to districts to link gram panchayats (village-level administrative bodies) within a 20 kilometer radius to urban local bodies (ULB), so that the faecal sludge from these villages can be sent to the faecal sludge treatment plants (FSTP) of the ULB.

According to Bhatia: “This will contribute to maximum utilization of FSTPs in UWBs – many treatment plants have to operate below capacity as they do not receive enough sludge to treat.”

This model of rural-urban convergence is working successfully in Dhenkanal and Balasore districts in Odisha. In Dhenkanal, 49 panchayats were connected to the ULB wastewater treatment plant; in Balasore, the number is 90.

Speaking at the CSE consultation, Parameswaran B, Deputy Director-Secretary, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water Department, Government of Odisha said, “We have made a conscious decision on this convergence. Odisha is a leader in India in building and operating FSTPs in urban areas, and we have recognized this model of rural-urban convergence as viable for the state. After the success of the pilot project in Balasore, we plan to implement this model in all areas where FSTPs are functional. »

Durg district in Chhattisgarh has also adapted the model – an FSTP from ULB has been linked to seven gram panchayats. Another state making progress on the issue is Karnataka. It is the first state in the nation to institute solid and liquid waste management regulations for rural areas and is exploring rural-urban convergence as a viable model in the state.

The scenario in Bangladesh and Uganda

Abdullah Al-Muyeed, Chief Operating Officer, CWIS-FSM Support Cell, Department of Public Health Engineering in Bangladesh – another speaker at the Consultation – spoke about what his country is planning: “Keeping in mind the Limited from Bangladesh, the country has decided to opt for integrated waste management for its rural areas – which will aim to treat both solid waste and faecal sludge, according to the rural-urban convergence model. More than 150 FSTPs are planned by the government.

From Africa, Uganda was represented at the Consultation by Engineer OlwemyLamu, Assistant Commissioner, Planning and Development, Department of Rural Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Water and Environment . Addressing the Consultation, Lamu said, “Uganda currently only has the capacity to treat 3% of the faecal sludge generated in its rural areas. In addition to this low installed capacity, the country faces challenges such as underutilized or overloaded treatment facilities, resulting in the release of untreated or partially treated sludge into the environment; and poor infrastructure and inadequate services for sludge storage, collection and transport, among others.

According to Lamu, Uganda has initiated some measures such as promotion of better toilet technology among households, promulgation of guidelines for construction of flush-only sanitation facilities in schools and construction of sludge management facilities. faeces in cities and densely populated places (such as rural growth centers or refugee camps).

Closing the discussions at the event, Sushmita Sengupta of CSE said, “CSE has clear recommendations on the issue. Solutions must be designed on a case-by-case basis, and states (in the case of India) must decide what works for them – but convergence must be a priority. It will be important to look at experience in urban areas to develop better solutions for rural areas. Creating area-specific cost-sharing models would be a sustainable way forward. Furthermore, there is a need to develop a market for sanitation services in our rural areas, for which awareness raising will be essential. »

For more details, please contact

Sukanya Nair of the CSE Media Resource Center
Email: [email protected]
Mobile: 8816818864

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