Project Prasadhan - Business model development for fecal sludge management in rural Bihar, India (PSI, USA and India)

  • kengelly
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Project Prasadhan - Business model development for fecal sludge management in rural Bihar, India (PSI, USA and India)

Hi everyone!

Sharing another one of our Gates-funded projects, which directly complements our larger, Gates project 3SI, based in rural Bihar, India.

Title of grant: Project Prasadhan - Business model development for fecal sludge management in rural Bihar
Name of lead organization: Population Services International (PSI)
Primary contact at lead organization: Arunesh Singh, Project Director, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Genevieve Kelly, WASH Coordinator This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Grantee location: Washington, DC
Developing country where the research is being tested: India
Start and end date: 01.11.2013 to 30.11.2015
Grant type: Global Development
Grant size in USD: $1,499,883 according to grant database: www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quic...s/2013/11/OPP1082978

Project Description:
• PSI and its partners Water for People (WFP), the WASH Institute and 3S Shramik, a local business offering portable toilets, fecal waste removal, transport and treatment services, are working to integrate the development of business models for FSM with their other existing project, “Supporting Sustainable Sanitation Improvements (3SI)” (see here for more information: www.susana.org/en/resources/projects?sea...mprovements+in+Bihar ), which is a supply-side strengthening project to increase access and to improved sanitation. Project Prasadhan is working to make pit emptying an end-to-end solution that includes safe disposal and possible reuse into profitable and sustainable businesses. Building off of the 3SI market research and project activities already conducted, and leveraging existing partnerships with the local ministries of health and environment, PSI aims to design a service provision option that is adapted for the 3SI toilet design. PSI is piloting evidence-based business models in stages, including testing technology solutions for onsite, community-based and centralized disposal, treatment and reuse.

Goal(s): Increase access to and use of quality services for FSM for consumers in the 3SI target districts of rural Patna, Samastipur and Begusarai in Bihar, India.

Objectives:
1. Develop commercially viable business models for pit emptying and combined service provision for emptying and disposal, treatment and/or reuse.
2. Increase demand for mechanized desludging.
3. Create an enabling environment that fosters public-private partnerships for FSM.

Research or implementation partners: Water For People ( www.waterforpeople.org/ ), WASH Institute ( www.washinstitute.org/ ) and 3S Shramik ( 3sindia.com/ )

Links, further readings – results to date: None yet

Current state of affairs: PSI is working with the local government to enable private operators of faecal sludge tankers to access the state-run sewage treatment plants which have capacity for additional sludge input, however the existing policy is that only publicly-operated tankers may dump there. Additionally, PSI is exploring opportunities to work with ‘pumping stations’ - 19 exist in the project areas alone – which are facilities designed to maintain the flow of faecal waste through the sewer network and pass it to the waste treatment plant. The pumping stations may present an opportunity as decentralized points for faecal sludge intake from non-sewered sources such as pump trucks.

Biggest successes so far: The project is a bit behind schedule; the landscape study is complete, in which PSI explored on-site, nearby and centralized sanitation options. PSI and its partners are near-completion of a low-cost, pre-fab septic tank product which reduces the need for often-expensive bricks, reducing costs to the household while increasing the acceptability of the product.
PSI is also exploring innovative sales and marketing techniques, such as the free placement of a “trial” portable toilet in a village, serviced every two days by 3S Shramik, to allow individuals to try out the experience of having a clean, convenient toilet available. After a one month trial period PSI staff conduct marketing and sales activities in the village and have seen a relatively higher level of interest in areas where a trial toilet has been placed. This approach is still in early testing stages, but seems promising.

• Main challenges / frustration:
The land in rural Bihar is very fertile, which makes it expensive. For this reason, villages tend to be densely populated, to limit the surface area of each household. Despite being a rural setting with quite a bit of land, households prioritize agricultural uses for the land, and leave very little space for living, let alone for a toilet. PSI is challenged with urban-implications in a rural area which makes this setting quite unique, particularly for pit-emptying services.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

-Genevieve

Genevieve Kelly
Intern | Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Seattle, WA USA | tel: 570-854-5075 skype: kengelly
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  • DarrylOnTheMove
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Re: Project Prasadhan - Business model development for fecal sludge management in rural Bihar

Hi Genevieve

Sounds interesting. To what extent, have you built in reuse safety safeguards based on risk management principles - e.g using Sanitation Safety Planning?
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  • pkjha
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Re: Project Prasadhan - Business model development for fecal sludge management in rural Bihar

Dear Genevieve

Thanks for the information that PSI is working for FSM in rural areas in Bihar under a project funded by BMGF. You are requested to share the following information about the project:

i. Name of the Districts and Village Panchayats where the project is going on.

ii. One of the main objectives of the project is pit emptying through sludge pump mounted on tankers and its disposal or reuse. I hope you are talking leach pit ( most commonly found in rural areas). In case of leach pits, water part is leached out IN soil and contents of the pit become thick enough. It can’t be taken out through sludge pumps. Moreover, in rural areas sludge tanker is not found. Is there provision in the project to provide sludge tankers in all Village Panchayats? If so, who will take operation and maintenance of the tankers?.

iii. Such emptying of sludge from septic tank is quite feasible.

iv. It is mentioned that sludge will be treated in Sewage Treatment Plants. In Bihar STPs are finger counts. There may be only 6-7 District Headquarters (out of 38 districts) having STPs, that too not in proper working condition. How it is possible to carry sludge from rural areas to such STPs for treatment? Who is bearing the emptying and transportation cost. In rural areas most of the toilets are constructed through the financial support from Govt. Therefore, households can’t afford the cost. Their one time emptying and transport may exceed the cost of single leach pit toilet.

v. Putting highly concentrated sludge at pumping station is a technical risk. STPs are not working mainly due to power failure.

vi. Even if it is transported to the STP, it is technically not feasible to treat such sludge. Reasons (i) most of the STPs are under capacity due to continuous rise in urban population and (ii) BOD of such sludge is very high – more than 1000 ppm. Therefore, most of the existing STPs can’t take load for proper treatment of sludge.

vii. I understand that BMGF grant for sustainable sanitation is - for non-sewered areas- independent of sewer system. However, your business model is dependent on sewer and STPs. Kindly check it. The project should explore business model independent of STPs.

viii. It is mentioned that portable toilet is being implemented under the project. You may like to elaborate the design, operation and cost of the toilet with name of the Districts/ Village Panchayats where such toilets have been installed.

I have put some more but basic questions. Kindly reply.

Pawan

Pawan Jha
Chairman
Foundation for Environment and Sanitation
Mahavir Enclave
New Delhi 110045, India
Web: www.foundation4es.org
Linked: linkedin.com/in/drpkjha
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  • christoph
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Re: Project Prasadhan - Business model development for fecal sludge management in rural Bihar, India (PSI, USA and India)

Hi Genevieve,
I don´t have the local knowledge Pawan has, but I was going to ask almost the same questions. Beside that I got a bit confused. The goal is

Increase access to and use of quality services for FSM for consumers in the 3SI target districts

for me that means target existing tanks. On the other hand it seems that you aim to construct new toilets. What is the main goal?
To set up a service model in general? or with one company? or to construct toilets (seems like that by your comment about the draw back).. .what is the main business - service or construction?
How much is charged? and what is the frequency of the emptying service?

You pointed out that only government tankers can empty in the WWTP. There is a good reason for that probably. How do you manage the reuse aspect? I can´t imagine that the public WWTP is reusing anything.

Please clarify a bit more, up to now the project is not clear to me.

Regards

Christoph
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  • kengelly
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Re: Project Prasadhan - Business model development for fecal sludge management in rural Bihar, India (PSI, USA and India)

Hi everyone,

Thank you so much for all of the great questions! I will do my best to answer some - the rest I will put to my colleagues based in India who are working directly with this project and then update as I get more information. (Even better, I'll try and get them to join SuSanA!)

First and foremost, I'd like to stress that we are still in a very exploratory/research stage at this point, testing technologies and meeting with partners to explore operational models. We do not have any FSM models up and running.

Secondly, I'll add that I am not a very technical person so if something I describe seems wholly off, then you're probably right! I'll do my best to represent the details accurately, but will also make sure my colleagues - the real experts - have an opportunity to reply.


To DarrylOnTheMove,

To what extent, have you built in reuse safety safeguards based on risk management principles - e.g using Sanitation Safety Planning?

I don't believe the project is ready to incorporate risk management just yet -- we're still focused on testing out a variety of technologies for their viability in the Bihar context - and which ones are appropriate - before we explore how they'll be operationalized/managed. (Steve Sugden is helping us with this and I will ask him to chime in!)


To Pawan,

i. Name of the Districts and Village Panchayats where the project is going on.

I am working on getting village-level detail, but for now I can tell you that we are conducting the study in 4 districts: 3 in Bihar (Patna, Samastipur and Begusarai) and 1 in West Bengal, South 24 Parganas. About 20 villages (minimum 5,000 population) were selected for each district.

ii. One of the main objectives of the project is pit emptying through sludge pump mounted on tankers and its disposal or reuse. I hope you are talking leach pit ( most commonly found in rural areas). In case of leach pits, water part is leached out IN soil and contents of the pit become thick enough. It can’t be taken out through sludge pumps. Moreover, in rural areas sludge tanker is not found. Is there provision in the project to provide sludge tankers in all Village Panchayats? If so, who will take operation and maintenance of the tankers?

We are not limiting ourselves to truck-mounted solutions, however this is where much of our work is focused at the moment. (We are also exploring on-site FSM solutions such as Tiger Worm Toilets.) While the project is rural-focused, we have some peri-urban areas that we are exploring the feasibility of pump trucks. For example, our project partners 3S have a 2,000L capacity pump truck which is able to navigate small(er) areas and they have built a 25,000L/day sewage treatment plant and we're hoping to see if we can find ways to work with them to increase their ability to serve rural areas through more efficient collection routes and that sort of thing. PSI will not have its own tanker operators - we will strictly collaborate with the private and public sector to leverage their existing activities.

iii. Such emptying of sludge from septic tank is quite feasible.

Yes, and among the existing toilets we're seeing in our project areas, many of them are septic tanks. Regardless of the solution we come up with, we may have to address the low-hanging fruit to start, and then explore options for the more tricky ones, like leach pits.

iv. It is mentioned that sludge will be treated in Sewage Treatment Plants. In Bihar STPs are finger counts. There may be only 6-7 District Headquarters (out of 38 districts) having STPs, that too not in proper working condition. How it is possible to carry sludge from rural areas to such STPs for treatment? Who is bearing the emptying and transportation cost. In rural areas most of the toilets are constructed through the financial support from Govt. Therefore, households can’t afford the cost. Their one time emptying and transport may exceed the cost of single leach pit toilet.

This is the challenge we're struggling with! Incentive schemes are misaligned - right now it does not make sense for even government truck operators to travel the distance to the STPs, hence the high prevalence of illegal dumping. PSI aims to advocate for an arrangement in which truck operators are paid to dump at the STPs. We're hoping that through improved efficiency of collecting and with support from the public sector we can have both public and private operators reducing their operating costs. As well, we hope that private sector actors such as 3S may see a business opportunity providing small-scale, decentralized STPs and that the coverage will increase in more remote areas.

Through our landscape research, we actually found that 89% of households with a toilet self-financed the construction. There is certainly a respondent-bias here (assuming it's less desirable to have received a government subsidy), which has to be considered.

v. Putting highly concentrated sludge at pumping station is a technical risk. STPs are not working mainly due to power failure.

This is very interesting/concerning, I'll make sure my colleagues are aware of this.

vi. Even if it is transported to the STP, it is technically not feasible to treat such sludge. Reasons (i) most of the STPs are under capacity due to continuous rise in urban population and (ii) BOD of such sludge is very high – more than 1000 ppm. Therefore, most of the existing STPs can’t take load for proper treatment of sludge.

Same as above, I'll consult with my colleagues on this. The latest I heard was that we are exploring hiring a sanitation engineer to assist with this aspect of the project. Perhaps we have gotten ahead of ourselves!

vii. I understand that BMGF grant for sustainable sanitation is - for non-sewered areas- independent of sewer system. However, your business model is dependent on sewer and STPs. Kindly check it. The project should explore business model independent of STPs.

As mentioned, sewers/STPs are not the only option we are exploring, however that is the component of the project on which we have made the most progress in our research. The 25,000L capacity STP I mentioned above, for example, is non-sewered. We're currently exploring these options to serve peri-urban areas. With regard to more remote, rural areas and leach pits, we are still testing different on-site and community-based technologies.

viii. It is mentioned that portable toilet is being implemented under the project. You may like to elaborate the design, operation and cost of the toilet with name of the Districts/ Village Panchayats where such toilets have been installed.

The portable toilet component is implemented by 3S as part of their regular business providing portable toilets for events and construction, however PSI is using some of its BMGF funding to support 3S to test this trial model at the village level. PSI worked with 3S to arrange for the complementary approach - and my notes say that PSI has paid for about 50 of the toilets, however I'll have to get back to you on their individual cost and where exactly they're placed. Each toilet has a 200L capacity and is emptied approximately every other day. (I have elsewhere in my notes that the toilets are 250L each and emptied 2x per day, so I'll check on this!) PSI's main role is to time its sales agents to arrive to the village for latrine sales immediately post the portable toilet trial.

To Christoph,

for me that means target existing tanks. On the other hand it seems that you aim to construct new toilets. What is the main goal?
To set up a service model in general? or with one company? or to construct toilets (seems like that by your comment about the draw back).. .what is the main business - service or construction?
How much is charged? and what is the frequency of the emptying service?

Forgive me if I was not clear - this project is to exclusively explore FSM solutions however it is a complementary component to a larger project conducted in the same geography, 3SI (described here: 3SI Overview ) which has the objective of toilet construction. PSI aims to leverage the public and private sectors in all of its work, so the idea is that PSI will work with local partners to develop or improve their service models. From my notes I have that the average payment made for sludge disposal was 1,150 INR, however I don't have this broken down by septic tank versus pit. 79% of our survey responders had never emptied their pit/tank thus far, with many of the septic tank toilets reportedly functional for 10 years.

You pointed out that only government tankers can empty in the WWTP. There is a good reason for that probably. How do you manage the reuse aspect? I can´t imagine that the public WWTP is reusing anything.

Agreed, and we're still at early stages of this conversation. We have not addressed reuse with STPs just yet, but are exploring technologies such as biodigesters which may allow for this.


Thank you thank you for all of the questions. Definitely forced me to review my notes a bit more closely! I'll reach out to my India colleagues in the meantime. Hope that answers your questions and I'd be happy to share more details as I get them. I've also attached the research findings report, conducted by the Social and Research Institute (SRI).

-Genevieve

Genevieve Kelly
Intern | Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Seattle, WA USA | tel: 570-854-5075 skype: kengelly
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