Topic 3: Engaging the private sector in FSM

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  • nityajacob
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

Dear friends,

Given below is a short summary of the main points from the discussions on how to engage the private sector in FSM. Thanks to all who responded to this topic, and Vandana and Shipra for their proactive engagement.

You suggested breaking down the problem and assessing the feasibility of engaging companies in different components. The two main parts are conveyance and treatment. Conveyance is further divided into sewer systems and truck based systems. The first are expensive, and part of public infrastructure and mostly made by government agencies even though private companies do the actual work. PPPs are difficult as private companies will find it difficult to collect users charges. However, private companies could provide truck based conveyance systems.

Broadly, the more centralized a system is, the less likely there will be a competitive market. The experience in Europe with privatization suggests that this is highly undesirable. Private companies should be encouraged if there is strong oversight. They can bring in expertise and steer clear of political interference. Decentralised systems are well-suited to small towns and semi-urban areas and additional income can be derived from the sale of products, especially manure.

Perhaps the best solution is to have a cooperative handle treatment systems limiting the profit paid back to investors. The cooperative framework is good in theory but without strong urban local bodies and responsible civil society partners, there is a risk of even cooperatives failing.

You pointed out several factors holding back private sector engagement.
1. Public finance will be required to reduce the quantum of private investment
2. The government needs to provide a stable environment as investments in this sector take 10-20 years to pay back
3. Companies should have access to concessional finance

These are some areas the government can look at while creating an enabling environment.

However, that said, you highlighted that in real life, the private sector is very much engaged in the provision of sanitation services and systems. This work is done mostly by the informal sector and to a less extent, the formal sector. Right from the digging of pits for toilets, making precast rings to line the pits, the cover slab, the construction of toilets, making and using suction machines, transporting sludge, composting and reusing it, the work is done by the grey market. This is cost-effective and fast.

Sanitation Safety Plans can help mitigate risks - both health and environmental- that may occur due to lack of knowledge about handling faecal sludge by these operators. One of the critical issues here, you mentioned is the use of manual scavengers. People do not handle excreta because of caste considerations.

On risks, you wrote about how separating faecal sludge from water would not help contain and eliminate the problem. Industry see water as a direct/indirect input resource to their manufacturing process are and able to find ways and means of making it affordable and secure by recycling something which is readily available, thereby solving water security and pollution.

Therefore, ISC and other institutions can help by doing the following:
1. Water-less toilets that can save 30% water. Faecal sludge can be processed in situ into a useful product. The private sector can help with suitable R&D.
2. Create sanitation as a service models with things like dual plumbing that reduce black water
3. Scale up operations across a group of housing societies or colonies
4. Develop monitoring systems

You also mentioned a U-Tube septic system that works better than conventional septic tanks in which soluble nitrogen content is are filtered off to enable enhanced bacterial digestion. This works with a modified toilet using two liquids. One is water and the other one is light non-ionic liquid which is in the sump. It does not use water to flush. This system costs less than USD 25 a unit and is compact. They can be made of wood or cement and mass produced. It can work even in the high water table areas.

We are completing the synthesis document and will post it shortly.

Warm regards
Nitya Jacob
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  • Ashok
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

I would be interested in the details of the U tube septic tank system.
I would even like to produce these in India, if permitted.
Kindly share the details and terms for transfer of technology.
My e mail address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

With regards,
Ashok Jain

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  • Silvester
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

Dear Susana Members,

It is better to look for better systems that can handle FSM by itself instead of worrying about the tedious process of traditional FSM. The FS in the traditional septic tank doesn’t get digested so easily due to various factors, particularly the high nitrogen contents.
We have designed kind of U-Tube septic system that works so well. The FS moves though this U-Tube continuously experiencing different zones with defined environmental conditions that are created by the system itself. At one stage the soluble contents of nitrogen, mucus etc. are filtered off to enable enhanced bacterial digestion. In the final stages the FS reaches the vermin zone from there it is ejected out and periodically collected as completely composted mass. This U-Tube septic tank has simple mechanisms that enable the channeling of FS which work as and when every time the toilet is used.
The above septic tank is coupled with an interesting Closet which has a slightly modified sump and seal and works with employing two liquid phases, one of which is water and the other one is light non-ionic liquid which is in the sump side. This closet does not require flush water, enables perfect sealing without odor and flies and flushing happens magically due to density differences of the dual phase liquids. The FS is transported in the slurry form with the help of urine and anal cleaning water if any.
The above toilet system was conceived and developed to make Sanitation easier, affordable and sustainable. It is easier, easier than preferring Open Defecation because people don’t have to carry buckets of water and also don’t have to worry about periodic emptying of FS.(It may be realized now why people prefer OD even if they have a toilet) Billions of gallons of fresh water spent every day for toilet usage can be saved. It is affordable even to the poorest of the poor since this toilet system costs only less than 25 USD. (It is cheaper than even pit latrines and by many folds cheaper than the reinvent toilets, costing hundreds of Dollars) It is sustainable because it attracts people to practice Sanitation and is certainly a health oriented system (Unlike the Pit Latrine built everywhere by the present Sanitation programs. These pit latrines enable the worst form of authorized Open Defecation not only ruining the lives of individual house hold but also polluting the whole communities. Clean Communities are impossible with these Pit Latrines.)
The U-Tube septic tanks are compact, handy and the overall dimensions are 60cmLx30cmWx150cmH.It may be noted it occupies hardly one third of a square meter surface area. These septic tanks can be made of completely sealed wooden planks or cements. These septic tanks can be mass produced by molding them from fibered cement slurry. They are light, strong and durable and hundreds of them can be produced in a day by two or three men team. This cement made septic tanks are preferable since it has all necessary provisions for hooking it to separate methane production units if required. The closets are essentially made of glazed vitreous ceramics and can be produced on site almost in all places. It may be noted that producing these ceramic closets on site is easy and practically possible with the advent of new production technologies.
This system can be made to work even in the low level water table locations and it may be noted that apart from providing proper Sanitation, this system can save billions of gallons of fresh water used every day for Sanitation all over the world .We can send more information and help out technically in case if anybody is interested exploiting the above Sanitation System.
When considering the Indian context of Sanitation, it is a big challenge and exhausting to handle the situation with more than one billion population still practicing Open Defecation. Based on a rough calculation, the Sanitation coverage should be at the rate one toilet to be built for every one second to achieve the targeted goals by 2030.This requires a massive operation with massive production, well designed supply and marketing chains. It may be required to design mobile production and onsite supply system involving hundreds of thousands private sector operators.
It is time now for redeeming Sanitation from the present Sanitation programs that are promoting the nasty Pit Latrines which are ruining the lives of innocent poor. Eradication of Pit Latrines should be the first priority of remedial measures for achieving the targeted goals of Sanitation.

Marianathan Silvester

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  • shaji
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

Corporate like to work in Alone and not as a conglomerate.It adds to their brand value and helps to promote their brand image . They want to be singularly responsible for what they do.It is always easier to take decisions / modify a approach /wind up when something is a failure. Decisions in a conglomerate takes a longer time.

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  • magdalenabauer
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

Dear all,

this is a very interesting discussion with lots of important insights. I think we can take many arguments forward for upcoming events like FSM4 as well as our synthesis document!

On behalf of the SuSanA Indian Chapter and ISC I am happy to share another video from ISC about FSM in India and corporate engagement. Shipra Saxena also addressed some issues.

Please watch here:

Thank you
Maggie
on behalf of the SuSanA Indian Chapter
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  • Marijn Zandee
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

Dear Vananda,

Thanks for your active moderation, which is helping this thread forwards.

I am not sure I fully agree here:

We do understand that the gestation period for an investment is longer. We do feel that rather than individual investments, a corpus created by multiple corporate might help in increasing the investment and thus would help in reducing the gestation period. ROI then would be faster.


In my view, a corpus (conglomerate?) of companies would be able to spread risk, as their individual investment would be lower. However, since they also have to share the revenues, I don't think their ROI will be any bigger or faster. Unless there are significant improvements in cost effectiveness when working at larger scales.

The Senegal example is interesting. It seems their main success is in water supply (for which people may be more willing to pay than for the waste water bit). It is also interesting to note how in the early stages some large french water companies stepped in as partners. I am sure this is not entirely uncontroversial, but seems to have worked very well in this case. It would be interesting to know more in detail why these companies felt that the government had sufficient long-term commitment to make the risks acceptable.

Regards

Marijn
Marijn Zandee

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  • Marijn Zandee
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

Dear Kulwant,

I don't have an example from the sanitation sector at hand. However, here in Kathmandu a public bus utility has very successfully been revived under this model.

I fully agree, without good people and (local) government leadership, it will be extremely hard to make progress. What I like about the idea of a cooperative structure, is that it has the potential to make a company/utility more resistant against (not immune from) political interference. The latter, often in the form of granting jobs to political supporters without the necessary knowledge or commitment is often an issue in developing nations.

At the end of the day there is no solution that will work every time in every setting. The "road blocks" to progress are likely to be different in different countries, or even states in federated countries. It takes a very thorough and honest assessment of what the biggest hurdles (and opportunities) are in a setting to develop the strongest possible institutional and legal framework.
Marijn Zandee

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  • raviv1971
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

Vandana,

This might be a bit long and I thank you in advance for your patience. Isolating Fecal Sludge from its carrier, which is water, is really not going to help the solve the issue of containing and eliminating fecal pollution. We are dealing with more than diarrhea here, Anti Mircobial Resistance (AMR) due to fecal pollution is a battle which the super-bugs are winning against humanity and we are facing that threat in a real world, read here

www.livemint.com/Science/TKBCVpppaqI6P1h...-dangerous-micr.html


Drawing analogies from securing our energy by embracing renewable energy, therefore reducing our dependence on imported oil , which also improved our Balance of Payments, we should be looking at water security and food security through the same lens. There is nothing more embarassing than importing food into an erstwhile agrarian economy. Our priorities in India must be towards securing water for agriculture, drinking and industry, in that order, to be able to have an independent and sustainable future for our future generations.

Where private sector has been hugely involved and successful to a large extent, has been industry and they are getting innovative about water productivity and re-use and recycle since the industry operates for an economically motivated outcome ie.profits. I am not getting into the debate around is water and human need or a human right and I have no opinion on it either. All I know is everyone needs water for survival including fauna and flora. Industry see water as a direct/indirect input resource to their manufacturing process are and able to cost for the lack of it, and therefore find ways and means of making it affordable and secure by recycling something which is readily available within their premises ie wastewater they generate, thereby solving for two issues, water security and minimal discharge and therefore pollution.

If we look at the projected demand for the world in 2030 based on current precipitation and consumption patterns, we are staring at a 40% deficit. Most of this deficit, unfortunately has to do with agriculture and drinking water. Specifically with reference to our country, India, indiscriminate and often abusive usage of our water resources combined with increasing urbanisation is making things worse for us.

Peri-urban areas are devoid to a great extent of piped water supply and sewer networks, so water becomes that much more precious and dearer when trucked or transported from a distance. Add to this the menace of disposing off the wastewater in an exponentially impure form than when received, into the closest water bodies thus destroying the entire eco-system making per-urban areas the perils of development. Out of sight - out of mind corollary is at play here when the citizens fail understand that the operator whom they employ to transport the fecal sludge to the nearest pumping station often dumps their waste into the very water body which potentially supplies them with fresh water. Besides those valid observations that have been covered in the other comments above, I would like to draw our attention to some issues which can be solved through an inclusive approach of all stake-holders.

We can combat the problem using a three pronged strategy where institutions like ISC along with like minded partners can bring about the change.

a. Let us start thinking about water-less toilets for the future thereby potentially saving 25%-30% of the water demand. Processing FS on site and turning it into a usage by-product is something we should accept and adopt.If you look at the real use of water in FSM, it is nothing but a transporter of human solid waste, and we spend about 90% of energy and resources in recovering this water to the initial state it was in.R&D and technology interventions from the private sector could help here.

b. Mandate dual plumbing in all projects ( residential, commercial, healthcare and other institutional projects like educational institutions etc ) where water demand is greater than a specified quantity, let us use what is drafted in the Model Building Bye Laws eg 10000 liters per day. The private sector can come in to build capacity and not just assets, the problem today with most decentralised on site sanitation systems is that there is not enough knowledge around operating these systems to the efficiency they were designed for.... and therefore any onsite sanitation solution becomes a monument to maintain rather than a solution to sustain. Challenge the private sector to get creative around Sanitation As A Service.

c. Scale things up, a housing society if looked at in isolation might perceive things as expensive and therefore would tend to lean dependency on the Government. A group of housing societies from the local community, might have a louder voice and therefore be heard sooner than an individual society, knowing thy neighbors helps. It is a lesson the fury of Nature has taught people in this country with every disaster related to Climate Change.

Whilst the Governments in our States and Country are trying to do their best, we still do not have robust processes and systems in place for faster execution. The pace of growth and lifestyle development is at an order of magnitude higher than the pace of infrastructure development and one really cannot predict when they will catch up, therefore the best way to sustain things is to scale it to an extent where it makes sense for all. Supply side management and Demand side management have to be deployed parallelly, LEED certifications and GRIHA certified products should be incentivised appropriately. Lifestyle choices should be driven by environment more than experience.

Water Exchanges can be set up in peri-urban neighborhoods and all the treated wastewater and treated / dried sludge free of pathogens, left over from various buildings could be sold out/ auctioned to those in need of it eg to the farmers to be used as water for agriculture and organic fertiliser for food production, there have been demonstrated models of this reuse around the world which the private sector can introduce in INDIA with the help of advocacy efforts from members of ISC.

Last but not the least and I saved this for the last because of the importance it deserves to be mentioned separately, "if we do not measure it, we do not mean it". Anything which is not measured cannot be controlled, so is the case with water, if we do not measure the amount of water we consume and the wastewater we generate, we cannot get efficient about them either. We will always be stuck with the NIMBY concept which leads to general apathy and degradation of societal responsibility and social ethics.

Measurement in terms of quality and quantity under the framework of an enforceable environment will drive compliance and when penalties are levied to offenders. The private sector will be able to then participate more to sustain and drive compliance. Until and unless measurement and enforcement are not mandated there is no incentive for anybody and mainly the private sector to step in and improve the efficiencies and empower sstakeholders.

Again, thank you for your patience. Warm regards

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  • Kulwant
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

Dear Marijn,

You have mentioned that perhaps the best solution is to put treatment systems in a private company that has a cooperative structure, and a limit on how much profit can be paid back to investors? The advantage of a cooperative is that voting rights are equally divided among share holders. Shares could be held by the local authorities, investors in the treatment plant(s) and a few civil society bodies. Under such an arrangement, all would have an equal vote independent of how much capital they bring.

Do you have any successful cases for reference? Theoretically, the suggested cooperative framework seems very good but without the presence of strong urban local bodies and responsible civil society partners, there is a risk of such a cooperative not succeeding to achieve the desired objectives.

Kulwant Singh

Gurgaon

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  • VandanaNath
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

A point well raised about Manual Scavengers that are still engaged in the sector, despite the legislation against it. There is a potential of capacitating these scavengers to become entrepreneurs, say in conveyance(as opined by Marijn). Also, it is crucial to ensure that they should handle FS will all the safety parameters in place.
Vandana Nath, PMP
Program Manager
Taskforce on Identification and Dissemination of Best Practices
India Sanitation Coalition Secretariat
New Delhi – 110001

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  • VandanaNath
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

True that the informal sector is playing a vital role. This definitely is a positive sign! There is demand, money, expertise, capacity, i.e all the key ingredients. So what are the obstacles in converting the existing engagement to a formal engagement? How should we address the knowledge gap you pointed out? How can we as a coalition address this?
Vandana Nath, PMP
Program Manager
Taskforce on Identification and Dissemination of Best Practices
India Sanitation Coalition Secretariat
New Delhi – 110001

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  • VandanaNath
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Re: Engaging the private sector in FSM

We second your opinion Marijn! Thanks for sharing your insights from international prospective on the models that worked.
You rightly pointed out that implementing a PPP model in this arena is challenging. However, both nationally and internationally we see a lot of potential for the private sector engagement (e.g. Senegal Model). This largely would succeed only when they see potential business models.
We do understand that the gestation period for an investment is longer. We do feel that rather than individual investments, a corpus created by multiple corporate might help in increasing the investment and thus would help in reducing the gestation period. ROI then would be faster.
What is missing was an enabling environment. The ISC and the NFSSM alliance is working together on creating this. We would like to hear your thoughts on how to replicate working models in a country like India.
Vandana Nath, PMP
Program Manager
Taskforce on Identification and Dissemination of Best Practices
India Sanitation Coalition Secretariat
New Delhi – 110001

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