Live streaming on Facebook: Dialogues on Sanitation-Legal Perspectives on Sanitation in Urban India, 23rd Oct 2018

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Live streaming on Facebook: Dialogues on Sanitation-Legal Perspectives on Sanitation in Urban India

Dear All,

Cities across India need to come to terms with the challenge of establishing Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) systems, protocols and services to address their 'non-network' sanitation needs.

The dominant paradigm for urban India, until a few years ago, was to provide network sewerage as a form of urban sanitation, which is a closed network of underground pipes to convey domestic wastewater from toilets and other human activities to treatment facilities. However, network sewerage has proven to be complex and expensive to establish and manage, and so we have as a result mostly poor quality networks that cover less than half of the urban population. Moreover, the sewerage networks that we have are not 'closed', which means that their management is messy and unsafe, and results in much of the wastewater going to river systems without adequate treatment.

More than half of the urban population has, in the meantime, been left to make their own arrangements as best they could, which they did by making their own on-site containment pits (latrine pits and septic tanks). However, local authorities have not done their part in establishing systems for periodic evacuation of these containment systems, and for ensuring that 'faecal sludge' or 'septage' from them is safely managed and treated ('Feacal Sludge Management' or 'FSM'). This omission has come at a huge human cost, leading to the proliferation of hazardous and illegal manual scavenging work – and an unconscionably high number of deaths of sanitation workers – as well as health costs in terms of communities exposed to pathogens and contamination from untreated faecal sludge in their vicinity. As there has been no systematic plan to link on-site containment with treatment facilities, much of the faecal sludge is being dumped in water bodies and open land, or being directly applied (in untreated and potentially hazardous form) to agriculture.

FSM seeks to address this gap through a sustainable 'non-network' solution. There is now a National Policy for Faecal Sludge and Septage Management and funding under the national AMRUT scheme for FSM facilities in eligible cities. At least 4-5 states have FSM policies in place, and several others have policies and guidelines in stages of preparation. At this stage it is, however, becoming increasingly apparent that there are emerging legal issues, gaps and challenges around sanitation. Some of these issues are:

The powers and responsibilities of local authorities do not specifically cover all that they need to do in order to ensure that the infrastructure and services needed for FSM are in place.
Environment regulations apply to wastewater, but cover mainly the end-of-pipe, and do not account for hygiene and safety in the management of sanitation, or for the specific needs of FSM.
Individual and private responsibilities for on-site containment and management of on-site facilities are not clearly specified, and are in some cases difficult to follow. From the citizen’s perspective, it is also not clear what the responsibility of the state is in non-networked areas.
Laws for the prohibition of manual scavenging have been an ineffective deterrent, very few cases are filed, and that too only when the manual scavenging work results in the sanitation workers death. Other laws, rules and regulations that relate to sanitation do not address the worker’s safety issue, leaving it only for the manual scavenging prohibition law.
Sanitation services related to FSM are currently provided by a number of small scale, informal service providers, who remain mostly unregulated, even as states and cities increasingly seek formal private sector partners (or PPPs) for scaling up their FSM services. However, from the experience in other sectors we know this does not necessarily guarantee improved services, without a policy framework that facilitates effective partnership between the state and private firms.

We are conducting a one-day 'Dialogues on Sanitation' to discuss these issues, bringing in lawyers and legal scholars, sanitation sector experts and activists to share their insights and experience. We seek, through this workshop, to connect the dots between the various practitioners and experts in the field, to learn from their experience in states and in their areas of specialization, and to inform and guide our own work in legal and policy issues in sanitation at CPR. This is being live streamed on Facebook and can be accessed at

Kind regards,

The SCI-FI Team

SCI-FI (Scaling City Institutions for India) program at the Centre for Policy Research is currently working on urban sanitation.
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