Mainstreaming Citywide Sanitation: Opportunities and Challenges for Excreta Management | Centre for Science and Environment

Mainstreaming Citywide Sanitation: Opportunities and Challenges for Excreta Management

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) organised a two day workshop on “Mainstreaming Citywide Sanitation: Opportunities and Challenges for Excreta Management” from April 4-5, 2016 in New Delhi. The objective of the workshop was to promote active exchange of experiences of national and international opportunities and challenges in excreta management. The workshop was attended by over 150 key sector policy makers, national/state functionaries, professionals, NGOs, international donor agencies and researchers who are involved in promoting sustainable and affordable sanitation.

Dr Suresh Kumar Rohilla (Programme Director, CSE) addressed the audience and highlighted the importance of technologies and policy integration for mainstreaming citywide sanitation in developing countries. During the inaugural session, Sunita Narain (Director General, CSE) emphasized on the inefficiency of current practices of water management In India, where cities only focus on water supply and ignore waste management. She further elaborates how sustainable water and waste management should be focused on the principle of recycle and reuse.

The workshop hosted a delegation of international and national experts, professionals and researchers in this field who shared their experiences on mainstreaming citywide sanitation. A brief summary of the technical sessions of the workshop is as follows:


Session 1: Safe Disposal and Reuse of Faecal Waste-This session discussed the fundamental issues in any laboratory dealing with faecal waste. Kartik Chandran (Columbia University, USA) gave his view on resource recovery from faecal sludge to produce energy and chemicals. He went into details of the pilot-scale project implemented in Ghana to explore the possibility of converting fs to biodiesel, biogas and volatile fatty acids.Chris Buckley (UKZN PRG, South Africa) explained the standardized methods, procedures and supporting practices for laboratory analysis of faecal sludge streams. This was followed by a presentation by David Robbins (GDS, USA) where he highlighted the importance of accurate data (volume, strength, characteristics) of faecal sludge which us critical to make effective technology decisions. The presentation gave an overview of a programme launched in 2016 in Indonesia describing the sampling and analysis planning process, pre-sampling checklist, field activities and laboratory protocols. Jayant Bhagwan (WRC, South Africa) discussed the need for ongoing faecal sludge characterization and monitoring to support scaling up and proper decision making for interventions, as well as research needs and strategies to support reuse and recovery from sludge.

Session 2: Septic Tank- Treatment and faecal waste disposal– Bhitush Luthra (CSE) kick started the session by discussing and flagging concerns on the current practices of desludging, transportation and disposal of FS in the country. Rajesh Pai and Kanakeshwar Kanakraj (BORDA) presented a case study which talked about the existing gaps in management of fecal sludge during collection, transportation and disposal in Devanahalli, Karnataka. The session also served as a platform for knowledge exchange of various technologies in this field. Onsite technologies such as – joukasou (Meena Kumari Sharma, Manipal University), hygienic toilet (K. Munshi, IIT-Bombay), septic tank (bio-digester) (Manoj Jha, Arkins Creation Pvt Ltd), decentralized wastewater treatment system (Chhavi Sharda, CSE),vermi-filtration (Sudipti Arora, BLIB) and Soil biotechnology (Chandrashekar Shankar, Vision Earthcare) were also discussed in detail. Towards the end of the session, Vishwanath S. (Biome Environment Solutions) presented a case study on the reuse of faecal waste for agriculture where he explains how this waste could be used as a fertilizer and a soil amendment.

Session 3: Tools for decision making to upscale/include FSM in sanitation plans- International Case Studies

David Robbins (GDS, USA) highlighted programmes in Phillippines, Myanmar and Indonesia which demonstrate good and sustainable methods of faecal sludge management. This was followed by a presentation by Shikun Cheng (University of Technology Beijing, China) where he showcased three cases for human faeces treatment In Beijing through treatment technologies such as biogas digester, wastewater treatment plant and composting. Ashley Mushpratt (Pivot Ltd, Rwanda) talked about a demonstration project in Kigali, Rwanda that converts faecal sludge into a burnable fuel for industry. Later on in the session, Hasin Jahan (Practical Action, Bangladesh) summarized the experiences of Practical Action on its action research, scale initiative and efforts towards linking up policy and practice work around faecal sludge management in Bangladesh. Abdullah al Muyeed (WaterAid Bangladesh) discussed the potential and performance of combined treatment of faecal sludge and municipal solid waste through co-composting. Kartik Chandran (Columbia University, USA) explained how decentralized and distributed systems for treatment of sewage and other organic streams can be a sustainable options for urban centres such as Manhattan. In addition to this, Rajeev Munankami (SNV, Bangladesh) highlighted the importance of capacities of local governments for providing sustainable and inclusive urban sanitation services in cities. Bhitush Luthra (CSE) together with Oscar Veses Roda (University of Leeds, UK) and Claire Furlong (WEDC, UK) informed the audience regarding “Shit Flow Diagrams”- which are an advocacy tool for improving the understanding of urban sanitation. This was followed by a brief discussion by Kalanithy Vairvamoorthy and Chaitanya Rao (IWMI, Sri Lanka) discussed work undertaken by IWMI to analyze the economic viability of faecal sludge management through the lends of business models. Towards the end of the session, Gagandeep Kan (CMC, India) explained the ongoing SaniPath study in Vellore to identify domains and pathways of exposure to faecal contamination that ma pose the greatest risk in low-income urban environments with poor sanitation.

Session 4: Policies for decision making to upscale / include FSM in Sanitation Plans

The last session discussed policies / approaches that are required to upscale FSM sanitation plans. This included the Sanitation Safety Planning- risk based approach to assist in implementation of 2006 WHO guidelines for safe use of wastewater, excreta and greywater (Payden, WHO-India), City Sanitation Plan (Sarah Habersack, GIZ-India), SANIPLAN – web based tool for citywide integrated faecal sludge management planning (Dinesh Mehta and Aasim Mansuri, CEPT, India) and a decision support tool (Sujaya Rathi, C-Step-India). To conclude the session, Sandeep Sandha and Bipav Srivastava (IBM Research, India) talked about the current issue around data management practices for water that have prevented their widespread dissemination.


The workshop ended withMr. Shashi Shekhar (Secretary, MoWR), Dr Vasuki (Mission Director, Suchitwa Mission- Kerala), Roshan Shreshta (BMGF) and Madhusudan Sharma (Deputy Secretary, SBM) together with CSE successfully launching:

(1) CSE initiative on - Capacity building of ULBs in Ganga Basin for Preparation of City Sanitation Plans, setting up India's first referral laboratory on Faecal Waste

(2) CSE - UNESCO IHE Netherlands Online Certificate course on Septage / Faecal Waste Management supported by BMGF


The two day intensive workshop empahsised on the urgent need to mainstream citywide sanitation and recognise the challenges and opportunities for excreta management in developing countries. The workshop served as a knowledge exchange platform where there were in-depth discussions on both national and international experiences in this field.


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