Embracing planning for faecal sludge management: The tale of two towns

Project Nirmal demonstrates appropriate, low-cost, decentralized, inclusive and sustainable sanitation service delivery solutions for two small towns (Angul and Dhenkanal) in Odisha. (Image: SCI-FI, CPR)
Project Nirmal demonstrates appropriate, low-cost, decentralized, inclusive and sustainable sanitation service delivery solutions for two small towns (Angul and Dhenkanal) in Odisha. (Image: SCI-FI, CPR)

Under Project Nirmal, a detailed planning process was undertaken for designing Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) interventions in Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities based on the existing sanitation situation in the towns, the techno-economic feasibility as well as capacities of local operators.  


Figure: A typical FSM value chain

The planning process adopted for designing FSM interventions in Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities comprised of these steps:

  • Baseline survey to understand the existing sanitation situation: This involved collecting information on current arrangements for water, sanitation (toilets), wastewater, solid waste and stormwater management and was the first step in identifying operational challenges for sanitation service delivery. The survey was conducted using a variety of research tools and techniques including broad mapping, Focus Group Discussions (FGDs), sample household survey, Key Informant Interviews (KIIs), institutional assessments and observations.
  • Physical survey to prepare a base map and plotting data using Geographical Information System (GIS): The base maps for both towns were prepared following spatial surveys and using high-resolution satellite images. The mapping was done on a GIS platform, which enabled the overlaying of multiple layers of information collected during primary and secondary research, and this facilitated detailed spatial analysis.  
  • Participatory planning processes anchored by community engagement structures created under Project Nirmal: To facilitate participatory bottom-up planning for sanitation, community engagement structures have been created at the slum and ward levels in the form of Slum Sanitation Committees (SSCs) and Ward Sanitation Committees (WSCs) under Project Nirmal. The SSC members are represented in the WSC and members of both SSC and WSC find representation in the City Sanitation Task Force (CSTF), which has been constituted at the town level as per the provisions of the National Urban Sanitation Policy, 2008 and the Odisha Urban Sanitation Strategy, 2017. These community structures have proved to be of great value in identifying key issues related to sanitation and while planning to address the same.
  • A situational analysis was done based on primary and secondary data collected as a part of the baseline survey.

Table: Standards for the provision of services

  • Analysis of demand and supply as well as assessing the existing gap in services: To assess the demand for various infrastructure services, existing national standards for service delivery were used. Comparing the demand with available supply helped identify the service delivery gaps.
  • Assessment of technological options to identify the most suitable technologies: An assessment of available technological options for addressing gaps related to sanitation, solid waste management, wastewater and FSM was undertaken by an in-house technical and City Sanitation Plan (CSP) review team. Participatory selection tools including financial and technical assessment tools were adopted to select a set of appropriate and feasible technological options.
  • Formulation of a strategy and plan for FSM as an integral part of the CSP: Strategies for addressing service delivery gaps were prepared for both towns, with a strong focus on covering the unserved areas following an incremental approach. Inputs from community engagement structures, namely, SSCs and WSCs as well as CSTF were sought and integrated while preparing strategies and projects. Angul and Dhenkanal have the distinction of being the first two small towns in Odisha to have prepared CSPs, with FSM as an integral part of these plans. Nine AMRUT cities followed and revised their CSPs to integrate FSM as a part of the CSP.

Putting an end to open defecation and improving access to toilet facilities

A multipronged approach has been adopted for this which includes (a) provision of new Individual Household Latrines (IHHLs); (b) conversion of insanitary latrines to sanitary ones with proper design and Operation and Maintenance (O&M); (c) rehabilitation and augmentation of existing public toilets; and (d) construction of new public/community toilets.

Implementing FSM related initiatives

The responsibility for institutionalising mechanisms for safe emptying, collection, transportation and treatment of faecal waste along with the creation of required treatment infrastructure, appropriate regulation and monitoring systems has been placed on the respective Municipalities. To generate demand for adequate and safe sanitation as well as making other stakeholders (including municipal officials, masons, private desludging operators) aware about their roles and responsibilities regarding sanitation/FSM, a communication strategy was developed and rolled out.

Treatment concept and design of FSTPs at Angul and Dhenkanal

The treatment concept proposed for FSTPs in Angul and Dhenkanal has been based on the following principles: a) maximum treatment efficiency; b) hygienisation and safe operation; and c) minimum operations and maintenance requirements.

In Dhenkanal the FSTP is subdivided into three parallel decentralized units of 9 cu.m each while in Angul FSTP there are two parallel units of 9 cu. m each. In Dhenkanal, there are three screen and grit chambers, three stabilization reactors and 36 sludge drying beds (12 for each stabilization tank).

In Angul FSTP, one screen and grit chamber, two stabilization reactors and 24 sludge drying beds (12 for each stabilization tank) were planned. After this stage, the percolate goes into DEWATS modules for further treatment. There are three anaerobic baffled reactors and three anaerobic filters in both FSTPs. The partially treated effluent is pumped through a sand and carbon filter for final treatment to achieve the disposal standards and gets collected in a common treated effluent collection tank.

The treated water is proposed to be collected for use within the plant and excess, if any, shall be provided to nearby farmland for agricultural re-use or will overflow into a nearby natural pond. In Dhenkanal, the groundwater table is high (approx. 2-3 m) with rock at about 3 m. thus percolation of treated water is not recommended.

Lessons learnt

  • A detailed planning process was adopted for designing FSM interventions in Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities under Project Nirmal. The planning process enabled an in-depth assessment of the existing sanitation situation in both towns, the technical and economic feasibility of the proposed projects as well as the capacities of local operators which in turn enabled designing FSM interventions which were appropriate for the local conditions.
  • The FSM interventions under Project Nirmal, have been two-pronged. While the first set of interventions have been aimed at improving access to toilet facilities and putting an end to open defecation, the second set of interventions have focussed on institutionalising mechanisms for emptying, collection, transportation, treatment, disposal/reuse and putting in place the required infrastructure. This approach, it is believed will help ensure the sustainability of the interventions.
  • The engagement of community structures created under Project Nirmal, namely, SSCs and WSCs have ensured that the planning process is truly bottom-up and participatory. This, in turn, has also resulted in higher ownership of the processes and outcomes by the local communities.
  • The use of participatory and spatial tools for planning FSM interventions has been innovative. Angul and Dhenkanal have been the first two small towns to adopt these approaches as a part of the planning process for FSM. There exists great potential for the adoption of this approach by other similar-sized towns across the state and country.
  • Forging a strategic partnership with Consortium for DEWATS Dissemination (CDD) Society, which has technical expertise and experience in designing and operating Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTPs) has proved crucial for choosing the appropriate technology and for ensuring speedy project formulation and implementation. Use of simple, cost-effective and environmentally conscious technologies for the treatment of faecal sludge has been an innovative approach taken by Project Nirmal.


The project was completed in 2020 and was implemented by Centre for Policy Research and Practical Action with support from Bill and Melinda Gates FoundationArghyamHousing and Urban Development, Government of Odisha; and Municipalities of Angul and Dhenkanal.

The article based on the research learning note 'Project Nirmal: Planning For Faecal Sludge Management in Small Towns – Experiences From Angul And Dhenkanal ’  is a part of the series demonstrating learning and outcomes of the Project Nirmal based on Scaling City Institution for India (SCI-FI)’s research on water and sanitation. More on the series: https://twitter.com/CPR_SCIFI