Investing in better sanitation can yield significant economic and social benefits, by reducing the incidence of infectious diseases and preventing disability and early death. Better sanitation can also reduce health care costs, increase productivity, and lead to better educational outcomes.
The Government of India is investing heavily to round off its efforts in the first phase of the Swachh Bharat mission which set the country on the ambitious goal of ending open defecation. It is applying sustained commitment, in terms of both budgets and strategy, to implement safely managed and equitable sanitation through complementary solutions that span the sanitation value chain, from reducing open defecation to focusing on safe treatment, disposal, and possible reuse of human waste. This work involves expanding sewer systems as well as scaling up fecal sludge management for populations that use onsite systems, for which more decentralized and non-sewered solutions are more applicable.
Our sanitation strategy in India focuses on improving management of fecal sludge from onsite sanitation systems—including safe containment, collection, transport to treatment, and safe disposal or reuse of waste. We also aim for sanitation services to be equitable, serve the needs of the urban poor and women, and support citywide inclusive sanitation systems.
We envision the universal use of sustainable sanitation in urban India, which will contribute to better health, economic, and gender equality outcomes. We work with the national government and selected state and city governments to improve sanitation strategies, tools, procedures, and expertise and to build demand for sanitation services through public outreach. We also foster partnerships with the private sector for delivery of effective sanitation services, and we demonstrate innovative technology and design solutions that those in the sanitation sector can implement on a broader scale.
India has provided a global model for sanitation reform through the government’s Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission) in this regard, it remains essential to ensure that all fecal waste is safely collected and treated. Most urban households in India pay cleaning services to empty pit latrines or septic tanks when they are full, and those contents are often dumped in rivers and lakes or on open land, leading to dire health and environmental consequences. We work in partnership with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, state governments, and other local and nongovernmental bodies to improve fecal sludge management (FSM) . With this support, India is moving forward with many states and cities scaling up their FSM solutions.
Projects we have supported include:
- Implementing scheduled desludging of septic tanks in Wai, a town in the state of Maharashtra. Wai was the first place in India to implement regular desludging of septic tanks in all communities as a municipal service.
- Building a fecal sludge treatment plant in the town of Dhenkanal, in the state of Odisha, and helping to establish an integrated service contract model that includes a call center. This effectively demonstrated a low-cost, highly effective method of fecal sludge management.
- Rolling out of fecal sludge management plans in all 396 municipalities in Maharashtra, which has a total urban population of 60 million. Most of these urban residents use onsite sanitation systems. With our partners, we implemented sustainable solutions to help the state progress towards its goal of being open defecation free, including co-treatment of fecal sludge with sewage at nearby treatment plants and building independent, city-level fecal sludge treatment plants (120 as of December 2020).
- Building the country’s first planned fecal sludge treatment plant that uses unplanted drying bed technology, in Devanahalli, Karnataka. This model, which has been replicated widely since the plant was inaugurated on World Toilet Day in 2015, works entirely using gravity, with power sources used only for exhaust fans for the greenhouse roof. It produces a soil conditioner that is not only pathogen free but meets India’s Fertilizer Control Order standards. It enhances yield on farms that would otherwise use raw fecal sludge as fertilizer, and its sale helps offset the cost of the fecal sludge management system. The plant was shifted to municipal management in 2019 and was operating at full capacity by the second half of 2020.
- Designing and launching an evidence-based social behavior change campaign in 2020, in partnership with the central government, to increase public awareness of the risks of poor fecal sludge management. Campaign Malasur- The Demon of Defeca explains what happens to fecal matter after it is flushed, thereby making an invisible issue relevant to people in urban India and highlighting effective FSM solutions
Wai: A Model of Citywide Safe Sanitation
Wai, in the state of Maharashtra, was the first municipality in India to implement scheduled desludging of all septic tanks and safe treatment of waste, reaching every single resident. Its system of inclusive, sustainable sanitation services now serves as a national model.
Empowering Women to Manage Safe Sanitation in Odisha
The state of Odisha is implementing community sanitation solutions that are managed by women’s self-help groups—an approach that provides important economic opportunities for women while keeping fecal sludge from contaminating the environment.