Call for specific small-scale / decentralised sewage treatment plant case studies and contacts in India

  • ulrichl
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Call for specific small-scale / decentralised sewage treatment plant case studies and contacts in India

Dear SuSanA community

As part of the 4S project (factsheet attached; see also here on the forum), we aim to visit and investigate up to 400 small-scale sewage treatment plants in South Asia (Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and with a particular focus on India). We are now at a point where we have a good number of some of the most common treatment technologies assessed (activated sludge, SBR, MBBR, DEWATS), and we are trying to find and get access to units of more specific and innovative technologies on the Indian territory.

We are currently looking for more case studies and contacts for the following technologies:
  • Constructed wetlands and soil filtration systems (Horizontal Flow and Vertical Flow CW, Hybrid HFCW + VFCW, SIBF, SBT, Phytorid, etc.…)
  • Anaerobic digestion systems (DRDO Biodigester, UASB, Biogas or other systems)
  • Membrane bioreactors (MBR)
  • Attached growth processes, other than MBBR (Trickling filter, Rotating Biological Contractor RBC, Submerged Aerated Fixed Film Reactor SAFF)
  • Chemoautotrophic Activated Carbon Oxidation (CAACO)
  • Electrocoagulation systems (EADOx, EC, …)
  • Advanced oxidation processes (Fenton method, etc.…)
  • Other interesting, innovative or lesser-known small-scale sanitation systems, case studies and design alternatives (e.g. prefabricated package plants etc.)

To fit in our study, the system must answer two selection criteria:
  1. It should serve 10-1000 households, i.e. its capacity should be in the range from 5 to 700 KLD (m3/day)
  2. It must be at least 2 years old (current functionality and operational status doesn’t matter)

We hope that the resourceful SuSanA community can help us in the last race for data collection for the 4S project. Any contacts, case studies or comments are welcome. Also, if you have a proven and promising small-scale wastewater treatment solution (ideally with 30 or more installations in place) and wish to include it in this study, this is the moment to get in touch with us.
Please rest assured that any data and information collected as part of this project will be treated confidentially and will be used only for research purposes.

We request you to share any information by emailing us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Thank you very much in advance!

Best wishes,
Lukas Ulrich and Marius Klinger

Lukas Ulrich
Project Manager
Small-Scale Sanitation Scaling-Up (4S) – www.sandec.ch/4S
Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology
Sandec: Department Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development
Dübendorf, Switzerland and Bangalore, India
www.eawag.ch www.sandec.ch

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  • muench
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Re: Call for specific small-scale / decentralised sewage treatment plant case studies and contacts in India

Dear Lukas,

I was just looking over older, unanswered forum threads, and found your thread from May. Did you get some responses for this or does it require another "plug" to make people aware of it?

Lukas is looking to "find and get access to units of more specific and innovative technologies on the Indian territory".
And he wrote: "Also, if you have a proven and promising small-scale wastewater treatment solution (ideally with 30 or more installations in place) and wish to include it in this study, this is the moment to get in touch with us."

Perhaps lots of people have already contacted you on this. But if not, perhaps this little reminder helps.

It is part of a wider project called "Small-Scale Sanitation Scaling-Up (4S), providing evidence-based policy recommendations" in India and Nepal which is explained here:
forum.susana.org/comparisons-of-various-...g-in-india-and-nepal

Regards,
Elisabeth

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant
Community manager of this forum via SEI
(see: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )
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  • goeco
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Re: Call for specific small-scale / decentralised sewage treatment plant case studies and contacts in India

Thanks Elisabeth for plugging this thread, which I was unaware of.

Lukas,

We are now at a point where we have a good number of some of the most common treatment technologies assessed (activated sludge, SBR, MBBR, DEWATS)


Should you be discussing products rather than technologies? Different products use the same technologies, but some are more innovative and therefore superior. I assume you are assessing and comparing the products rather than the general technologies? For example there is a difference between Borda DEWATS (product) and DEWATS (technology).

Given my claim that none of the technologies you have listed can compete with vermifiltration on cost/treatment efficiency at the scale being studied (or for that matter right down to household level), if you don't include vermifiltration you will never have the comparative data to refute or confirm my claim. Keep in mind I will hold you to account when I review your report. So, given the amount of money going into this one-off study, are you confident that your review of the literature was thorough enough to ensure that all current technologies are being adequately represented in your "selected systems"?

It must be at least 2 years old


What about a new and promising technology... even prototype-stage technology? Should this not have an equal opportunity for evaluation as the incumbent technologies and products?

Then, there are implementations of technologies that are not even products, such as design and construction details for systems constructed from locally available materials (which is quite different to a product that is marketed and promoted). How well did you capture such systems, given that nobody will be plugging them? Vermifiltration, as an example, is an extremely simple aerobic treatment technology that can be constructed by laypeople and at low cost... a marketers nightmare. Indeed the technology is so simple that product promotion based on benefits and qualities as points of difference, likely only suggests questionable or unverified claims, such as what is offered by CAMUS/Vision Earthcare Soil Biotechnology (SBT). In your literature review, what vermifiltration design options have you uncovered for a reactor capacity of >5 cubes of wastewater per day? Are you even aware of the technology, or more importantly staged vermifiltration - a 100% aerobic process for achieving secondary treatment of wastewater?

To improve the regulatory framework and provide guidelines to the public, you need to do better than simply allow the incumbents to stake their claim using last century technologies, thereby effectively precluding new technology innovations.

cheers

Dean

Dean Satchell, M For. Sc.
Go-Eco Sustainable Solutions
www.go-eco.co.nz
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  • ulrichl
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Re: Call for specific small-scale / decentralised sewage treatment plant case studies and contacts in India

Dear Elisabeth

Thanks for waking up this thread. Indeed we got a few returns from this call, also via the SuSanA India chapter.

Dear Dean

Thanks for sharing your critical thoughts.

Should you be discussing products rather than technologies? Different products use the same technologies, but some are more innovative and therefore superior. I assume you are assessing and comparing the products rather than the general technologies? For example there is a difference between Borda DEWATS (product) and DEWATS (technology).

We are categorizing by technologies/processes, and then including different products per technology where relevant, possible and applicable. Innovative is not necessarily superior in my view.
Regarding DEWATS: as you know it stands for "DEcentralised WAstewater Treatment System", which can basically include anything in terms of technology or product. But as you say, it is often associated with certain technologies or products, and the work of BORDA/CDD who coined the term. According to CDD Society, DEWATS is an approach rather than a hardware package, led by certain principles (decentralisation, simplification, conservation/recycling). (By the way this is a bit similar to EcoSan, which is also often seen as a technology or even product rather than an approach.) Today there are several companies in India which are promoting the same or very similar types of systems under a different product name, also using alternative designs.

Given my claim that none of the technologies you have listed can compete with vermifiltration on cost/treatment efficiency at the scale being studied (or for that matter right down to household level), if you don't include vermifiltration you will never have the comparative data to refute or confirm my claim. Keep in mind I will hold you to account when I review your report. So, given the amount of money going into this one-off study, are you confident that your review of the literature was thorough enough to ensure that all current technologies are being adequately represented in your "selected systems"?

There has been some great research on vermifiltration in India by Dr. Sudipti Arora ( cseindia.org/userfiles/20160404-mainstre...on-sudipti-arora.pdf ). Some pilot plants exist, e.g. by IIT Roorkee. Unfortunately, uptake to "real-life" applications has been very limited. If you know of any specific systems in India, please let us know (see our call).

What about a new and promising technology... even prototype-stage technology? Should this not have an equal opportunity for evaluation as the incumbent technologies and products?

While well-performing and affordable technology is absolutely needed in the sector - and related innovations as well - our research project is not primarily about technologies and products. A lot of research has been or is being done on the performance of different treatment processes, often prototypes and pilots. We can learn a lot from that and more tests and studies will still be helpful.
In our project we focus on understanding small-scale sanitation systems in the context of successful implementation at scale (e.g. large numbers of units in a city). This involves the right technology choice (which technology for which context), design, implementation, O&M, management (at sanitation system and institutional levels), monitoring, financing and socio-cultural aspects. All this can affect performance. We are learning from existing systems, 2+ years old, to understand what works and what is needed to address current challenges, with the eventual goal that small-scale sanitation can be effectively and efficiently combined with large-scale or on-site sanitation approaches and deliver its contribution to city-wide wastewater services.

Then, there are implementations of technologies that are not even products, such as design and construction details for systems constructed from locally available materials (which is quite different to a product that is marketed and promoted). How well did you capture such systems, given that nobody will be plugging them? Vermifiltration, as an example, is an extremely simple aerobic treatment technology that can be constructed by laypeople and at low cost...

Different engineering companies simply sell sewage treatment plants (STPs) as their product, applying different processes depending on the client's needs. In urban India, materials and components are locally available in different qualities. Not sure what you mean by "technologies that are not even products, such as design and construction details for systems constructed from locally available materials". It may be possible that certain systems can be constructed or installed by laypeople, but technology choice, design and construction supervision of wastewater treatment systems always must be done by experts.

Kind regards,
Lukas

Lukas Ulrich
Project Manager
Small-Scale Sanitation Scaling-Up (4S) – www.sandec.ch/4S
Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology
Sandec: Department Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development
Dübendorf, Switzerland and Bangalore, India
www.eawag.ch www.sandec.ch
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  • goeco
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Re: Call for specific small-scale / decentralised sewage treatment plant case studies and contacts in India

Hi Lukas,

Innovative is not necessarily superior in my view.


Depends on whether you see innovation as just introducing a new method, or the application of better solutions.

We are categorizing by technologies/processes, and then including different products per technology... Different engineering companies simply sell sewage treatment plants (STPs) as their product, applying different processes depending on the client's needs


Treatment "plants" in the simplest form (for example) can be tanks that are provided by a supplier, with a capacity engineered for the number of users. The engineer specifies the capacity according to users, whereas the supplier (i.e. the company marketing the "product") specifies the plant. "Products" tend to entangle the engineering with the supply chain... with the supplier invariably specifying those products which generate greatest profits for them. On the other hand, masons can be trained in the design and construction of the same capacity plant using local materials. I asked these questions because to me it seems sensible to disentangle the technology from the STP product. The difference between products within a technology are the associated innovations, which become the key point of difference when evaluating them.

In the context of successful implementation at scale, by limiting your research scope to plants >2 years old and >10 households, you risk information gaps that may unnecessarily limit the value of your results. Your study will only be a snapshot of what was driving implementation a number of years ago and at a certain scale. The lessons offered therefore hold no value in the context of tomorrows implementations, because these are driven by current research and innovation. Why set such a scope? What if your work were to be of no value to the community because it studied outdated technology, simply because of a predetermined scope?

What if, by chance, there were technologies emerging that demonstrated a step change in cost efficiency, even at the smallest possible (household) scale... I'm sure you would not want the situation where your research has negative consequences because your recommendations delay uptake of newer, better technologies.

Good that you seek to understand what is working in order to address "current challenges", but measuring success is inherently subjective. What might be deemed "successful" today will become a thing of the past tomorrow as technologies evolve. The market embraces what works best right now, but there is a lag between innovation and implementation at scale. Only by closing that gap do you have any chance of producing meaningful results and recommendations that have a real and positive influence on future planning of cities. Technology that costs the least and performs the best inevitably ends up the winner. Unfortunately getting there via market forces alone can be a long slow journey. Current challenges surely boil down to money (cost per person), reliability and effectiveness (level of treatment)?

cheers
Dean

Dean Satchell, M For. Sc.
Go-Eco Sustainable Solutions
www.go-eco.co.nz
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