Ensuring a clean India goes way beyond just wielding broomsticks and sweeping visible garbage off the streets of our cities. It is imperative to also address the issue of the sewage and sludge that is invisible and that flows beneath the ground we walk upon, in our drains and into our water bodies. This is also important in the context of the government’s Smart Cities Mission. No city can be termed truly ‘smart’ without an effective sewage management system.
At present, only a third of city dwellers in urban India are connected to a piped sewer system. As a result urban India is drowning in its own sewage. Despite an existing policy mandate, public institutions and implementing agencies lack the time, knowledge and capacity to take informed decisions sustainable and affordable wastewater treatment technologies. Urban local bodies also face critical gaps in capacity and resources for efficient planning, design and operation of systems, processes as well as investments required for effective management of faecal sludge.
With the alarming mismanagement of water and waste across urban centres of India, it is evident that there is an urgent need to build knowledge and achieve sustainable sanitation. This includes knowledge enhancement and capacity building on sanitation diagnostics, city sanitation planning and decision making and analysis of cost effective and sustainable wastewater treatment technologies for mainstreaming faecal sludge/septage management.
To address this issue, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) brought together some of India’s key decision makers, managers and regulators at its ‘Regional Conclave and Workshop on Preparing City Sanitation Plans and Effective Septage and Faecal Sludge Management’. Many of these experts were from cities in the basin of river Ganga. Speakers and dignitaries included Rajat Bhargava, Joint Secretary & Mission Director, National Mission for Clean Ganga, Praveen Prakash, Joint Secretary & Mission Director Swacch Bharat Mission, and J. B. Ravinder, Joint Adviser Public Health and Environmental Engineering (PHEE), Central Public Health & Environmental Organisation (CPHEEO).
Sunita Narain, Director General, CSE said: “Capacity building of public institutions on robust operating models and in some cases with new approaches to sanitation planning, will help cities to focus attention, investments and efforts towards holistic city-wide sanitation planning. Septage management and decentralised wastewater treatment options that can be undertaken by institutions and individuals for sustainable water management is the pragmatic way forward to tackle this issue.”