As the world gets ready to mark World Toilet Day on November 19, New Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is offering a pathway towards reimagining India’s sanitation future.
Speaking at a workshop on safe sanitation organised in New Delhi, Depinder Singh Kapur, programme director, water, CSE said: “This year, the theme for the World Toilet Day is accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis. CSE, in partnership with the Uttar Pradesh government, come together for urban sanitation agenda forward and move beyond toilets – towards ensuring scaling up of sustainable and inclusive septage management in the state.”
CSE organised the workshop in collaboration with the Uttar Pradesh government’s Department of Urban Development. Besides Kapur, the other speakers included Dr Nitin Bansal, IAS, director, Urban Local Bodies, UP and Dr P K Srivastava, additional mission director, AMRUT, UP.
Participants included officials from 17 municipal corporations and 56 nagar palika parishads; state-level functionaries from various missions such as Swachh Bharat Mission, AMRUT, State Mission for Clean Ganga etc; and representatives from various related government departments.
Among other publications, a Septage Management Performance Assessment report of 56 towns of Uttar Pradesh, was released on the occasion. One of the issues that the workshop focused on was that of ‘aspirational toilets’.
Envisaged under India’s flagship programme, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) 2.0, aspirational toilet is all about “raising the standards and aspirations regarding toilet facilities, aiming for higher levels of cleanliness, hygiene, and user-friendliness”, according to CSE researchers. The workshop discussed some key aspects of these toilets, ranging from quality, design and technology integration, to their accessibility, inclusivity and sustainability.
Safety of sanitation workers was another discussion point at the workshop. The Uttar Pradesh government is keen to work on the safety and well-being of its sanitation workers and Safai Mitras to ensure improved livelihood options for them.
In line with the Government of India’s vision of ‘manhole to machine hole’, all urban local bodies (ULBs) in the state have set up ‘Emergency Response Sanitation Units’ (ERSU) for ensuring safety of sanitation workers. ULBs are trying to ensure that all manholes/machine holes are cleaned only through mechanical machines and human entry in machine hole is not permitted.
Kapur, however, pointed out that “households living in narrow lanes in small and medium towns are facing a challenge in emptying their septic tanks due to difficulties of access — there is, thus, a need to explore alternative options for mechanical emptying to ensure safety of sanitation workers.”
The third key subject for deliberations at the workshop was reuse of bio-solids mined in treatment plants. Says Kapur: “India is in the midst of an urban sanitation revolution, where conventional systems of water-based centralised sewerage, designed to transport faecal material from homes through pipes to sewage treatment plants, are being augmented with non-sewered sanitation systems of faecal sludge treatment plants (FSTPs), that are designed to cater to towns and parts of cities where sewerage systems don’t exist.”