Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree


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  • nityajacob
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Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Dear members,

We are starting the first thematic discussion of 2022 on the challenges of faecal sludge management in rural India. One of the main second-generation sanitation issues India needs to solve is the management of the faecal waste and sludge accumulating in single and twin pit toilets, holding tanks and  septic tanks in rural areas. These systems of containing faeces account for most toilet containment systems. They present a very different challenge than the proper designing and construction of toilets – the constant need to empty them so toilets remain usable, and the possibility that people may revert to open defecation in absence of proper FSM arrangements.

According to a survey by the Quality Council of India1, in rural areas, 23.89 per cent of toilets were twin leach pits, 40.87 per cent were single leach pits, and 31.93 per cent had septic tanks but were not connected to any treatment system. Narrow lanes, scattered habitations, lower payment abilities, the lack of treatment facilities and small villages are some challenges in rural areas. Additionally, there are few scientific, quick and safe emptying systems. As a result, most emptying operations are done manually or in an improper manner.

An estimated, 61 MLD faecal sludge will be produced by 2024in rural India, requiring about 2,000 STPs/FSTPs. The private sector has a  potential role here and with a suitable enabling environment, can provide financial, technical and managerial expertise.

Currently, there appear to be two emptying paradigms. One is the ‘formal’ or official paradigm in place for the last couple of years. This takes the view that emptying pit toilets and septic tanks should be done either on demand or on a schedule. The sludge is best handled by a treatment plant or ‘proper disposal’. Toilet owners pay for the service of emptying, transport and treatment. The value chain is a viable business proposition, which hypothesis has to be proven at scale and over time.

The other is the ‘informal’ paradigm that has  grown organically in response to the demand for emptying septic tanks. This holds that emptying happens when a toilet owner demands it, especially when the tank is filled or overflown and systems are choked, sometimes at intervals of over 10 years. The nutrient-rich sludge, removed by private emptier,  could be disposed on a field and the field owner pays for it. After a few months when natural processes kill off most pathogens, the dried sludge is used as a soil conditioner, reducing the need for fertilisers. This value chain is also a viable business proposition; if it were not, it would not have existed.  It comes with its set of environmental concerns and impacts such as water pollution, health and safety issues with improper treatment and handling of human waste etc. 

In both paradigms, despite the usage of mechanized equipment for desludging (in many cases), human intervention is involved and continues to be performed by persons engaged in manual scavenging even though the existing laws and the SBM II guidelines forbid it. Direct contact with faeces (in the pits/ septic tanks) is necessary if the sludge is dense and cannot be sucked out, as happens if desludging is at long intervals. This is also the case when tanks are not constructed well asper norms, which is the case most often, wherein they need to be broken and opened for pumping or emptying to take place. While we have no reliable data on sanitation workers engaged in desludging activity, according to the data by Rehabilitation Research Initiative 2019, more than 15 lakh people are still engaged in manual scavenging, of whom more than 70 per cent are women.

The government’s guidelines for SBM II (Rural), detail out the FSM process as illustrated in the decision matrix . There are different approaches because of population densities, access, demand for desludging services and the ability to pay. The co-treatment of faecal  sludge with sewage is an option where sewage treatment plants (STPs) exist at a distance of max 15-20 kms from the villages. Where they do not, FS can be poured into trenches, or onto drying beds in fields, or into planted drying beds. In all three methods, the dried sludge can be used in agriculture after curing for several months.

In practice, in rural areas, FS collected by desludging operators is emptied into water bodies, farm lands or any empty plots. This pollutes both surface and groundwater that may be used by animals and humans. In open areas, it dries and can be blown into houses,  contaminating food and water, a form of deferred open defecation. Digging trenches and making drying beds can be easily promoted provided farmers overcome the revulsion of handling human faeces reinforced by the caste system. Figure 1 summarises the risks 2.

To bring the two paradigms together so that FSM in rural areas grows organically and is safely managed, several things need to happen.
Legal control and regulations for Safe and Sustainable FSM
Households and owners of premises including rural institutions such as schools, anganwadis and health care facilities have the responsibility to manage on-site containment, make timely arrangements for de-sludging, and to ensure there is no manual scavenging. Desludging and transport operators need oversight to ensure integration with treatment facilities, coverage of all settlements, enforcing standards of service provision (adequate equipment, enforcing the prohibition of manual scavenging and unsafe work on desludging operations, and service providers decant septage only in treatment facilities).

Some form of price regulation is also needed to ensure fair and affordable prices. For all these, we need to define the roles and responsibilities as well as powers of the Panchayati Raj Institutions clearly. The current extension of the Municipal SLWM act to rural areas may not address lack of clarity about many of these issues. 

Access to treatment facilities
A distance of 15-20 KM has been considered as the maximum viable, while determining if FS from a village can be treated at an existing STP or FSTP.  Else the transportation costs can be very high for a rural household to afford. This is based on surveys and experience from the field. It may work if volumes are high, tipping charges are reasonable, and enforcement is strict.

While they charge from the users the charges for the entire distance up to the STP, the so-called informal operators may simply drop their
loads at the nearest convenient location to maximise profits. Can they be incentivised to do so in nearby designated areas which have been prepared, such as trenches or drying beds?

It is not enough to tip FS and septage into a STP. FS and septage have a much higher biological oxygen demand and density than sewage and will need to be pre-processed before they can be added to sewage. [url=#_msocom_1][SH1][/url] Two ways are adding sewage and using grey water, but both need to be available at the point of disposal, not collection, to make transport cost-effective.

Our past experience with STPs has been dismal, as data fromthe Central Pollution Control Board show. The current installed treatment capacity for Class I and II towns is 6190 million litres per day (MLD) against a generation of 29129 MLD. There are no figures from smaller towns, census towns and villages. It is safe to assume existing STPs are not up to the job. Constructing more such infrastructure is a slow and cost intensive process. The Government of India has come up with Urban-Rural Convergence for meeting the FSM needs of rural areas in urban peripheries, which should be seen in this light.

Studies and the guidelines propose that FSM could generate enough revenues to cover operating costs. Constructing a treatment facility is a capital-intensive and technical matter, though biological treatment through wetlands of the percolate from FS is not. 

Will funds from the 15th Finance Commission, SBM-II and other sources be enough to make and maintain treatment facilities, given their restrictions? Funds from SBM II can be used only for making trenches, drying beds and FSMPs, or any other technology where retrofitting and co-treatment are not possible.

Collecting and transporting FS has become a business, but how can this be extended to the entire FS cycle? Is there a market for sludge from FSTPs and STPs? There are some examples where treated sewage from cities is being bought and used by industry and farmers  though this is not applicable to rural areas.

A more comprehensive decision tree may work. If there are treatment facilities close enough to make tipping commercially viable, private transporters could be persuaded through financial and legal means to use them. In their absence, the guidelines suggest that farmers could be educated to make trenches, drying beds or reed beds to accept and treat the FS. They would pay the transporter and in turn, save on fertilisers. The tree needs to factor caste barriers to handling FS, educating households on desludging timings and getting them to pay.

Before this can work, FS safety standards are needed. FS isa pollutant and health hazard. Existing rules and laws cover the first aspect for water pollution and disposal of solid waste but inadequately for FS. They do not deal with the second at all. For instance, how many  helminth cysts per unit weight are permissible? How can they be neutralised or is there even a cost-effective way to do so? How can eutrophication of water bodies from the high nutrient loads in FS be prevented?

And the final and important question remains: How to prevent manual scavenging and human interface with faecal matter while engaging sanitation workers, and ensure their health, safety, dignity and livelihood?

Therefore, while the guidelines have been laid down and roles and responsibilities decided, there are many challenges to managing FS in rural areas. A suitable decision tree, similar to the shit-flow diagram, can be a valuable tool to bring the two paradigms together. We would like you to help us build this tree that practitioners can use when planning for safe and sustainable rural FSM. Please share examples where STPs/FSTPs in urban are a service rural areas, or where such facilities have been made for clusters of villages.  How have technical, financial, managerial issues, and communication with communities been addressed? How do we ensure there is no human contact with FS?

This discussion is being facilitated by Sandhya Haribal, Senior Project Manager at CDD Society, and Ajit Phadnis, Director, Primove Infrastructure Development Consultants Private Limited. The opening comments from our facilitators follow this background note. The discussion will be open for comments through February. We will post weekly summaries of your contributions, so please login and share your experiences.
1. Report of “Household survey for assessment of toilet coverage under SBM Gramin”, QCI, 2018
2. Verhagen, Joep, and Pippa Scott. 2019. “Safely Managed Sanitation in High-Density Rural Areas: Turning Faecal Sludge into a Resource  through Innovative Waste Management.” World Bank, Washington, DC
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  • Sharibal
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Thank you Mr. Nitya for beginning an important discussion. Would like to share my thoughts and leave a few questions for the members of the forum to ponder upon and respond with their ideas or further discussions.

Hello Everyone,
I am Sandhya Haribal, Senior Project Manager with Consortium for DEWATSTM Dissemination (CDD) Society. CDD Society is a not-for-profit organization, registered in 2005, that innovates, demonstrates and disseminates decentralized nature-based solutions for the conservation, collection, treatment and reuse of water resources and management of sanitation facilities.

India has been making great strides in the sanitation space, albeit with a lot of challenges which come along with such large-scale programmes. The continued focus on rural sanitation, culminated the past decades’ initiatives into the Swaccha Bharat Mission-Grameen (SBM-G) which began in October 2014, and focused on construction of toilets in addition to other activities. It has now moved onto Phase-II which deals with the post toilet infrastructure and waste management. One of the critical ‘second-generation’ issues is faecal sludge management (FSM) that has picked up pace in the urban areas. It has become more relevant in the rural scenario given that the majority of the toilets are connected to on-site sanitation systems. Further, with the construction of over 100 million toilets (as per SBM-G database) across the country, whose containments will fill up in the next two-three years, it is imperative to properly plan and implement FSM systems on the ground in rural areas. 

The desludging of toilet containments in rural areas is currently being carried out in an erratic manner. As the availability of desludging vehicles is scarce and houses are usually constructed on vast plots, the containments are found to be oversized (in order to delay emptying). While this is the case in sparsely populated areas, in densely populated villages and peri-urban areas, most recently constructed containment systems (especially those built under SBM) are small and will need emptying every 3-4 years. While villages close to large cities might have a better access to emptying services, those in the interiors or difficult-to-access areas have limited options and means for emptying the systems once they fill up. 

In terms of treatment facilities also, there are not many existing examples, and this issue needs immediate redressal. Therefore, other easy options for managing FS are needed where linkages to an existing nearby treatment infrastructure (STP/FSTP) are not possible. One could be deep row entrenchment which is listed as the second option of managing faecal sludge in the SBM-G guidelines. However, this too has its own limitations. The land requirements for handling 3 - 6 m3 of sludge varies from 300 – 500 sq. m. This might be challenging in many rural areas with criteria like soil permeability, ground water levels, absence of a water body, easy terrain for access to vehicle, social acceptance, etc. As in case of any infrastructure project, notification of land parcels, especially for treatment of human waste might witness not just the usual administrative delays but also social opposition by the local public. For this the sites may need to be identified far away from habitations, which in retrospect would increase the transportation costs. 

The key challenges in case of rural FSM would be a combination of the following:
  • What is the ideal treatment capacity one should design for a given cluster of villages? With varying scenarios across a single district, assessing ideal capacities which would cater to not just the present but future population is a challenging task
  • Even if infrastructure for treatment is built/provided, ensuring proper and timely desludging and discharge of the collected sludge at the designated point is another challenge and would require a much stronger institutional mechanism
  • With a different economic and administrative structure as compared to urban counterparts, neither the community nor PRIs may have sufficient resources or capacities to manage an FSM system which will require contextual and easy to manage low cost systems
  • Faulty construction of toilets and containments in many places could pose a demand risk for any newly set up FSM system
  • With limited financial resources and various behavioural challenges, it might be difficult to attract private service providers into rural hinterlands.
From experiences in rural Karnataka, a well-planned approach integrating policy, regulatory, capacity building, technical support and demonstration examples would help in simplifying the systems and providing easy to manage infrastructure and systems on ground. The cluster-based approach to establishing stand-alone FSTPs can address the issues of low demand for FSM in rural areas. Further, planning the management, regulation and promotion (in some cases) for low-cost FSM systems and desludging services by building on the existing systems could be a logical way forward for rural FSM. 

The key questions I would like to pose to the forum members would be-
  1. What is the ideal approach to planning the ideal capacity and location of an FSM system for a group of villages?
  2. How can one ensure smooth functioning of an FSM system in a rural area in the current scenario? Please provide inputs on the administrative, legal, management, financial and social aspects
  3. What could be your suggestions for making FSM systems a thriving services market in the rural scenario?
  4. How can one overcome the acceptability challenge to this concept of treating human waste and using the treatment by-products in rural areas?
Are there any suggestions to simplify and downsize the capital and operational requirements for an FSM system in a rural setting?

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  • AjitSeshadri
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  • Marine Chief Engineer by profession (1971- present) and at present Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, Chennai, India. Also proficient in giving Environmental solutions , Designation- Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Head- Environment, The Vigyan Vijay Foundation, NGO, New Delhi, INDIA , Consultant located at present at Chennai, India
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Dear SusanA Members, 
Taking forward the discussion on FSM in Rural areas and their effects.
First is the mind set need to change, and change for the better.
If all school kids take their own water bottle, whenever they step out of the house.
All should learn to respect FS. 
It's just and fair, a word Night Soil was coined.. how it originated, where.. Etc.
Let us all give it the due regard and respect the resource, and use as soil conditioner Etc..
As long as communities are around, FS needs to used.
As soil conditioner, as manure at its best. The recycled water too can be used.. w wshs ..
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Head-Environment , VigyanVijay Foundation, Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others)Located at present at Chennai, India
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  • Ajit
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Hi, I am Ajit Phadnis, Director PriMove. Nitya, thanks for taking up FSM as a first theme for year 2022. I would like share some comments and pose some points to take the discussion about decision tree forward.
PriMove is working in rural water and sanitation sector in various states of India and also internationally. We have developed a nature based technology for waste water and faecal sludge treatment which is currently being used by public and private sector. PriMove is also operating and maintaining both STPs and FSTPs. We also provide capacity building and project management services in WASH sector to government, multi & bilateral agencies, NGOs and private sector at national and state level.  

Safe disposal of excreta is at the core of SBM. Various types of toilets have been and are being constructed under SBM. A sizable number of single pit and septic tank toilets necessitate operational faecal sludge management (FSM) mechanism to be in place. It is necessary to make them safe sanitation facility. Key steps in FSM chain are desludging / emptying, transporting, treatment, disposal and/or reuse.
Environmentally responsible approach and technologies to convert the faecal sludge in to a resource ( waste to value) is a key building block for efficus FSM chain.  
For each step there are multiple options which would be influenced by local context in terms of numbers of toilets and their density, spatial distribution, existing infrastructure and facilities, capacities of local government agencies, private sector, availability of appropriate technology and awareness among target community about the importance of FSM.   There are multiple stakeholders involved in FSM. Citizens, local government agencies, local service providers for emptying and transportation, private technology providers, CBOs and groups of local sanitation workers etc.  Sustainability of FSM services is linked to appropriate technology options for the entire cycle i.e collection, transportation, treatment and disposal/reuse. It is also linked to regulation, local governance, responsiveness and responsibility of citizens. The design of overall business model which will lead to sustainable operations is crucial. Considering the complexity, public- private- social partnership can be one of the potential way forward.

Some key discussion points for evolving a decision tree would be:

  • What would be criteria for selection of technologies in the rural area? Examples of innovative technologies   ·       
  • Considering FSTP would probably cater to more than one GP, what could be the ideas for processes for planning and DPR preparation especially involving PRIs and communities?   · 
  • Ideas for regulated and efficient desludging and transportation system to ensure safe disposal   ·      
  • Ideas for business models to ensure sustainable safe FSM    
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  • pcnayak1971
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  • A multi disciplinary civil engineer cum architecture I am working in the sector of Water Resource Management, WASH, Wastewater Management, Livelihood, since 2001 as WATSAN, also I was working with watershed management, irrigation development, community drinking water, soil & water conservation, NRM, climate change mitigation, etc.
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Dear Sandhya,

I think we should stick to the technology and not to the technical design. I mean we could modify the design as per the site condition and we could implement as per the requirement. We should think beyond the improvised technology also.

Thanking you,

Prakash Chandra Nayak
Prakash Chandra Nayak
Civil Engineer (Technical Head-WASH & IWRM)
Water For People

Behind SBI
Gola Road, Patna-801503
Cell : +918249738398
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  • Aditya007
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

I think the role of private sector in rural India is crucial for improving the FSM scenario. Rural India is majorly dependent on on-site sanitation processes with more than 60% of toilets being double-pit or have septic tanks. Such facilities require cleaning of tanks/desludging at a regular interval. However, due to lack of capacity, financial capability or technical expertise among the local government bodies, it results in overflow of such facilities. Major challenges as to why private sectors are reluctant to be involved in FSM are
· Inadequate priority assessment of costs and risks: The private sector when involved in the FSM with government agencies
should have a detailed contract with set performance standards by defining outputs to defining service levels. Moreover, the contract should contain details regarding how the outputs will be monitored and how such outputs will be linked to payment. Another risk in public-private partnerships is the delay in payments. This needs to be mitigated by clearly identifying a reliable source of funding for the engagement before starting the contract period. Moreover, the contracts should include notice periods in case of at will termination by both the private and public players. In case of at cause termination initiated by private player for violations of contract terms by
government agencies, the private player should be compensated for its investment and vice versa.
· Lack of clearly defined and practical monitoring process: Current monitoring processes are very extensive and difficult to adhere
to. So a modification in the monitoring system needs to be made so that effective monitoring can be done to provide timely payment to the private sector. Government agencies can leverage the community monitoring systems for improving the process along with randomized sample schedule for monitoring. 
· Lack of performance-linked payment: A recent study in Maharashtra has identified that if payments were linked to performance
of the private players, the service levels could be further improved. Thus, introducing an output-linked payment can be beneficial for both consumers and providers.    
A seven-step process could be followed for private sector engagement:
·       Transparent baseline assessment of the market scope for FSM in which the private sector can contribute
·       Defining the operational role of private sector in terms of which activities should be bundled together
·       Allocating the responsibility for capital investment between private player and the government agency
·       Defining the payment structure
·       Defining the contract document in a detailed manner regarding its length and value to incentivise the private players
·       Identifying risks and required mitigating actions.

Models of private sector engagement
· Private operators involved in emptying/desludging septic tanks and transportation: In both rural and urban areas, the local authorities can outsource such activities to the private sector. Private players can be involved in emptying of FS form households and transporting it to the FSTPs. 
· PPP model: Public-private partnership model can be one option where costs of construction, operation and maintenance of the plant is shared with the government authorities. One such example is in the state of Andhra Pradesh for FSTP construction and operations is the Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM)on a Design, Build, Operate and Transfer (DBOT) basis. Even as 50% of the capital investment comes from the private player, the remaining 50% is paid by the government to the player in form of annuity payments along with fixed O&M costs. 
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  • pkjha
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  • Working for over 30 years in the fields of sanitation, biogas from human wastes, septage management, waste water treatment in rural as well as urban areas in India and other developing countries.
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

 Dear All
 The most serious issue for FSM in rural as well as urban areas is its unaffordable cost. NIUA has compiled the details of some of the FSTPs implemented in urban areas and as per their book- “Faecal Sludge Treatment Technologies in India – Compendium”, average CAPEX ranges from 1.1- 1.4 million per cum and OPEX @ around 100,000 per cum. Obviously, the cost is much higher than the sewerage / Septic tank system that takes care of total waste water including faecal sludge.
    Perhaps that could be reason for unavailability of any FSM implemented by ULB from its own resource in unsewered areas at full town level. Most of the FSMs are implemented through convergence of funds from different sources. There is no support for OPEX and most of the ULBs are unable to afford such high OPEX.    
    For rural areas,  as per the SBM (G) II guidelines, financial support for FSM has been fixed @ INR 230 per capita. It appears reasonable but very lower than the existing cost in urban areas. It may be quite difficult for the companies/ agencies involved in urban FSM to get involved in rural areas where only a few FSTPs have been reported so far that too at demonstration level.
   In India, old and traditional technologies for decentralized waste water treatment, in series, are normally implemented for treatment of effluent from unplanted or planted filter beds and most of the technologies don’t meet the norms of effluent discharge of EPA. Further,  resource recovery for faecal sludge/ septage needs to be properly demonstrated to make the system lucrative. This aspect is almost completely lacking. 
There is urgent need to make the CAPEX and OPEX cost effective, acceptable to local bodies.
   The NFSSM is advocating FSM at all levels. They should realize the issue and propagate for lowering the cost of the FSSM.
There are several other issues. The discussion on the Forum needs to be more realistic and practical, taking into account socio-economic and cultural conditions of rural
Pawan Jha
Foundation for Environment and Sanitation
Mahavir Enclave
New Delhi 110045, India
Web: www.foundation4es.org
Linked: linkedin.com/in/drpkjha
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  • Nirma
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Revenue generation model of the FSTP in Wayanad District, Kerala

Intervention area: 
·       Kalpetta, town and municipality, Wayanad district, Kerala
·       Town population- 31,580 and households-7,519 (Census 2011)

The challenge
·       The cesspool operators who removed faecal sludge from toilets in houses and institutions dumped it in open places, owing to the lack
of septage treatment facilities​
The Solution 
·       The project is a part of rehabilitation measures initiated and organised by UNICEF after Kerala received severe floods in August 2018. ​
·       Uses innovative nature-friendly and organic ‘tiger bio-filter’ technology, which uses earthworms for composting faecal waste​.
·       Fecal Sludge Treatment Plant of capacity 10 KLD(Kilo Litres/ Day) that can treat 10,000 litres septage per day.
·       O & M support provided prior to handover to the respective municipality in 2020​.

·       PriMove Infrastructure Development Consultants Pvt. Ltd.- Contractor for the FSTP.
·       UNICEF - Financial and technical support.
·       Municipal Corporation along with the district administration- Support with regards to provision of land, water and
electricity supply.

Construction and handover
·       The construction of the plant started in March2019 and completed in May 2019. For a year the O&M was conducted by PriMove. In August 2020, the plant was handed over to Wayanad Municipality.
Business Model
·       Emptying scenario prior to setup of the FSTP: Prior to the set-up of the FSTP, the charges for emptying of septic tanks by private desludgers were in the range of Rs 5 to 7 per litre or approximately Rs 10,000 per trip by the transporter with a truck capacity of 4,000 litres. The vehicle service providers had to travel long distances, to find a place for safe disposal of the waste matter.
·       Revenue model of the FSTP : The Municipality developed a revenue model wherein it charges a tipping fee of Rs 5,000/ trip from households for emptying their septic tank. Of this amount, the septic vehicle service provider is paid Rs 2,700/ trip for emptying and transporting the fecal sledge while the municipality retains Rs 2,300/ trip or evacuation.
·       Income generated: From January 2021- December 2021, Kalpetta municipality recorded payments for 121 trips @ Rs 5,000/- per trip. It paid the operator of suction truck @ Rs 2700/- per trip and itself earned Rs 2,300/- per trip amounting to a total revenue generation of Rs 2.78 lakh by the Municipality. The O&M cost paid to PriMove in the same period was Rs 6 lakh. Thus, there has been a deficit, but the municipality has plans to increase the revenue generation in 2022.
·       Proposed expansion for beak-even: i) Expand the geographical coverage of septage collection from the current Kalpetta town to the entire district of Wayanad, including the rural areas. ii) Increase the rate charged from households/ institutions from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000/ per trip. iii) Currently, the FSTP generates 100 kg of manure/ year, which the municipality plans to sell out at Rs. 10/ kg.
With these three initiatives planned for 2022, a break even could be possible. 

Revenue related data obtained from PriMove Infrastructure Development Consultants Pvt. Ltd
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  • jamespharper
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Thanks to all for your input on this important issue.  I agree that in our capitalist societies, cost is the primary driver of poor rural FSM.  Having researched the perceptions and behaviors of household members and FSM service providers (i.e., emptiers, sweepers) towards FSM in Cambodia and Bangladesh, whose sanitation landscapes are similar in many (but not all) ways to India's and other countries', it is clear to me that transporting heavy FS away from households in rural areas is not a viable solution.  In short, the high costs of transport make traditional technologies (vacuum trucks, STPs, FSTPs, etc.) unworkable in rural areas.  Thus, I strongly believe that we should focus this decision tree on on-site treatment and disposal (ideally, reuse as fertilizer) of FS.  My thoughts and associated research are described in more detail in the Conclusion of my PhD dissertation (p. 162 - 171, particularly p. 168-169), which you can access at the following link (open access):


So, for this decision tree, I believe that we should have a simple question at the top of the tree that asks if the rural area is near to an existing FSTP/STP or near to where vacuum trucks already operate successfully (e.g., periurban areas like the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia) and have adequate road access throughout the year.  If yes, then the traditional-technology decision tree applies.  If no, then we enter this new decision tree that is being discussed here, which I believe should specifically focus on on-site technologies.

I invite your comment and look forward to continuing this discussion!

​​James Harper, PhD, PE (he/him/his)
​Civil Engineering ​Researcher​ and Educator
Noble Pursuit​s, LLC
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  • Nirma
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  • Consultant, UNICEF Climate change and Environment sustainability (CCES)
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Revenue generation model of the FSTP at Dhenkanal, Odisha

Intervention area
·       Dhenkanal town and district headquarter, Odisha​
·       District population of 11.9 lakhs and 2.7 lakhhouseholds (Census 2011)

The challenge
·       Dhenkanal town had around 15,000 households (Census 2011), all of which relied on some form of on-site sanitation systems, such as pits or septic tanks for containing and partially treating excreta generated from toilets.
·       Manual cleaning by sanitation workers was largely prevalent and mechanical desludging services by the Dhenkanal Municipality was not efficient and effective as the town lacked a dedicated disposal or treatment arrangement for the fecal sludge collected.
The Solution:​
·       Fecal SludgeTreatment Plant of 27 KLD (Kilo Litres per Day)capacity that can treat 27,000 litres per day was established and  commissioned in October 2018.
·       The main treatment steps followed in the FSTP are solid-liquidseparation, stabilization, dewatering of sludge and pathogen removal. The separated liquid component is also treated to meet discharge standards. The faecal sludge is conveyed to the FSTP through desludging trucks.

·       Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF),Arghyam, Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD) Odisha- Financial support.
·       CDD Society, Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and PracticalAction- Implementing partners
·       UNICEF and CPR collaboration – Plug in GPs and others in the ‘cluster’ to available urban facility in the Dhenkanal district.

Construction and operations
·       The construction of the FSTP was initiated in 2017 and completed in 2018. The plant was commissioned in October 2018.
·       Blue Water Company was engaged by Practical Actions from 2019- 2020 to manage both collection/transportation of faecal sludge and the operation of treatment plant, which means ULB has only a single point of contact for managing the entire system. From August 2020, two Area Level Federations (ALF) of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) have been engaged, with one managing the desludging and the other, FSTP operations.
Business Model
·       Emptying scenario prior to setup of the FSTP: Prior to the set-up of the FSTP, the charges for emptying of septic tanks/pits manually
or by a mechanical desludger in urban areas were in the range of Rs 1,000-2,500.
·       Revenue model developed: i) Demand based collection: easy to access the desludging services through a toll-free number, managed by the O&M service provider ii) Service provided within 48 hours of the demand placed. iii) Cost: Rs 600/ trip for 1 KL capacity vehicle for households, Rs 1,000/ trip for 3 KL capacity vehicle, and Rs 1,500/ trip for institutions and commercial bodies. iv) Payments: Digital payments are possible via Point-of-Sale payments.  v) Tracking: GPS tracking vacuum trucks. vi) MIS: A database on collection and transportation is maintained regularly and shared with ULB periodically vii) Bridging the urban-rural divide: the FSTP currently serves one urban area (Dhenkanal Municipality) and 49 GPs.
·       Income generated: From January 2021- December 2021, the municipality recorded collection for total 2,564 trips generating an amount of INR 22.68 lakhs. The O&M cost borne by the municipality in the same period came to Rs 20.67 lakh. Thus, the FSTP demonstrate a scalable and sustainable model for septage management in India.


1. CDD india. cddindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/...P-Factsheet-2019.pdf

2. CSE. www.cseindia.org/faecal-sludge-treatment...henkanal-odisha-9722

3. Cost data received from CPR and UNICEF
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  • pkjha
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  • Working for over 30 years in the fields of sanitation, biogas from human wastes, septage management, waste water treatment in rural as well as urban areas in India and other developing countries.
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Dear Nirma 

Information on FSTP at Dhenkanal town is quite interesting. 
Out of total revenue ( INR 22.68 Lakhs) generated in 2021 through emptying charge, 20.67 lakhs is spent on O&M of the FSTP. What is the CAPEX and what are the funding sources of the FSTP? Is there any resource recovery  and economic return from FSTP?
For any successful Business Model we need to see recovery of CAPEX also. 
Pawan Jha 
Pawan Jha
Foundation for Environment and Sanitation
Mahavir Enclave
New Delhi 110045, India
Web: www.foundation4es.org
Linked: linkedin.com/in/drpkjha
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  • AjitSeshadri
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  • Marine Chief Engineer by profession (1971- present) and at present Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, Chennai, India. Also proficient in giving Environmental solutions , Designation- Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Head- Environment, The Vigyan Vijay Foundation, NGO, New Delhi, INDIA , Consultant located at present at Chennai, India
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Re: Faecal Sludge Management in Rural Areas – Building a Decision Tree

Dear SusanA Members, 
Ref Ms Nirma= 2 posts, very appreciative of the notings,
Ref Dhenkal Town data No 33260 Dtd 14.02.2022
1. Pl try avoid manual scavenging as far as possible, but if needed to use PPEs, give them the dignity and wages for them duly given. As the FS is risky, take adequate care to ensure we ll being in communities. 
2. Mechanical de sludging ie emptying of septic tanks done.
27 kl per day plant commissioned. 
Not sure if open site dumping is done for transfered FS, 
3. Co composting ie FS and bio waste or gobar / cow sludge dung or bio waste.  This when realised, use the produce manure in agri farms.. This  is good to sustain and generate revenue.
Rs 5/- per kg manure.. 
Well wishes 
Prof Ajit Seshadri, 
Vels University
Prof. Ajit Seshadri, Faculty in Marine Engg. Deptt. Vels University, and
Head-Environment , VigyanVijay Foundation, Consultant (Water shed Mngmnt, WWT, WASH, others)Located at present at Chennai, India
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