Faecal sludge management policy environment for small towns: Taking a wider view

Odisha is trying to fa­cilitate adoption of FSM by Urban Local Bodies so that sewage, septage/ faecal sludge, and liquid waste is safely managed, treated, and dis­posed. (Image: SCI-FI, CPR)
Odisha is trying to fa­cilitate adoption of FSM by Urban Local Bodies so that sewage, septage/ faecal sludge, and liquid waste is safely managed, treated, and dis­posed. (Image: SCI-FI, CPR)

Considering the overarching depen­dence on onsite sanitation systems, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), GoI launched the “National Policy on Faecal Sludge and Septage Management” in February 2017. The idea was to create an enabling framework for implementa­tion of FSSM related initiatives across urban cen­tres in the country.

The policy sets the context, priorities and direction for states and cities in the context of FSSM. It also addressed aspects related to safe containment, conveyance, treatment, disposal and reuse of wastewater to ensure that the social, economic and environmental benefits of improved sanitation access accrue to each urban household in the country.

Creating an enabling policy framework for FSM in Odisha

The policy environment on FSM was getting congenial in the country. In light of this, the Government of Odisha (GoO) initiated work to draft state policies that would facilitate the creation of an enabling environment for the implementa­tion of FSM initiatives. The Housing and Urban Development Department (H&UDD), GoO prepared the Odisha Urban Sanitation Pol­icy (OUSP) and revised the Odisha Urban San­itation Strategy (OUSS) in 2017, with technical assistance from the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) under Project Nirmal.

These efforts have enabled Odisha to become a front runner among states with a comprehensive policy framework that ensures compliance with national environment, health and safety laws as well as those prohib­iting manual scavenging. Further, to fa­cilitate adoption of FSM by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), the GoO also prepared Odisha Urban Sep­tage Management Guidelines in 2016 and Model Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Regula­tions in 2018.

The OUSP envisions making all cities and towns in the state clean, sanitised, safe, healthy and liveable, managed by ULBs and with active citizen and stakeholder participation. It is aligned with national policies (namely, National Urban Sanitation Policy, 2008 and National Policy on Faecal Sludge and Septage Management, 2017). Guided by a set of seven principles, the OUSP sets out to achieve six outcomes over ten years (2017-2027).

Of these six outcomes, four are directly related to sanitation and FSSM, including

  • Urban areas are Open-Defecation Free (ODF) and Open-Discharge Free (ODF+/++);
  • Sewage, septage/ faecal sludge, and liquid waste is safely managed, treated, and dis­posed;
  • Safety standards and guidelines are followed in the physical handling and management of waste; and
  • Cities/towns do not discharge untreated waste (water and faecal waste) into the water bodies of Odisha.

To facilitate the implementation of OUSP, the H&UDD, GoO developed OUSS 2017, which details out (a) the institutional framework at the state, district and city level; (b) provisions and guidance for planning, Monitoring and Evalua­tion (M&E), capacity building and training; and (c) phasing and funding.

Facilitating urban areas to be ODF

Odisha has been one of the first states to demon­strate its commitment towards making all urban areas (cities and towns) not just Open Defecation Free but also Open Discharge Free. The state has adopted an incremental approach for ULBs to attain an ODF status, progressing from Stage 1 to 3.

Sewage, septage/faecal sludge and liquid waste is safely managed, treated, and disposed

This is aimed at ensuring that all faecal waste generated in an urban environment is safe­ly confined, regularly collected, safely transport­ed, and disposed of after adequate treatment; with due care being taken of persons, machinery, ma­terials and surroundings involved in the process. To achieve this outcome, the OUSS, out­lines a set of actions to be undertaken by the state, district and local governments.

While the state government is responsible for preparing “Guidelines on Sewerage and Septage Manage­ment” for cities and towns, the onus of imple­mentation of FSSM initiatives rests with ULBs. The ULBs are required to prepare City Sanitation Plans (CSPs) integrating FSSM initiatives, in line with the State Government’s Guidelines and with the active participation of the citizens.

ULBs also have to ensure that the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of all sanitation infrastructures is proper and that adequate funds are available for imple­mentation of FSSM related initiatives planned under the CSP.

The district governments, on the other hand, have been entrusted with the responsibility of providing land for the develop­ment of sanitation infrastructure (either at an individual ULB level or for a cluster of ULBs) and monitoring implementation of septage man­agement across ULBs in the district. During the implementation of Project Nirmal in Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities the state, district and local institutions took up their roles and responsibilities as defined in the OUSS.

Safety standards and guidelines are followed in the physical handling and management of waste

To ensure successful implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scaven­gers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the OUSP provides that the State government through the H&UDD will formulate rules and ensure that all relevant state and local government officials, as well as citizens, are familiar with these rules and their provisions.

Cities/towns do not discharge untreated wastewater and faecal waste into the state’s water bodies

The sixth outcome of the OUSP is aimed at elim­inating urban pollutants, including septage/ faecal sludge, and municipal solid waste, from reaching the state’s rivers and river basins. The OUSP presents a multi-pronged approach, which includes, strengthening of existing drainage sys­tems; strong FSSM and/or underground sewerage networks (including STPs) wherever relevant; and an interception, diversion, and treatment of septage and wastewater flowing through natural drains.

Model FSSM Regulations, 2018

Project Nirmal, provided technical assistance to H&UDD, to prepare the Model Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Regulations, 2018. Section 388(8) read with sections 390 and 392 of the Odis­ha Municipalities Act, 1950 empowers Municipal­ities and Notified Area Committees (NACs), while sections 657, 658 and 659 of the Odisha Municipal Corporation Act, 2003 empowers Municipal Cor­porations, to make regulations. In line with these provisions, all ULBs in the state has promulgated FSSM byelaws based on the Model Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Regulations, 2018.

The provisions of the Model FSSM Regulations, 2018 cover the entire sanitation value chain and details out roles and responsibilities of all con­cerned actors including owners of premises, cesspool operators, treatment facility operators and the ULB.

Odisha Wastewater and Faecal Waste (Man­agement and Disposal) in Urban Areas Act (Draft)

Project Nirmal helped develop a draft of the Odisha Wastewater and Faecal Waste (Man­agement and Disposal) in Urban Areas Act. The Act aims to provide a framework for ensuring safe management and disposal of wastewater and faecal waste by individual households and establishments, municipalities and other local authorities and state agencies and authorities in urban areas to minimise risks to health and well-being, environmental harm and hu­man dignity resulting from unsafe exposure to wastewater and faecal waste, and for any con­nected or incidental matters.

Lessons learnt

Odisha has created an enabling environment for the adoption of FSSM by promulgating the Odisha Urban Sanitation Policy, 2017; Odisha Urban Sanitation Strategy, 2017; Odisha Urban Septage Guide­lines, 2016; and Model Regulations for Sewage and Septage Management for ULBs, 2018. Proj­ect Nirmal has been a key partner in creating this enabling environment by providing tech­nical support towards drafting of these policies and guidelines. The formulation of the OUSP has ensured that the ULBs comply with the na­tional environment, health and safety laws and those prohibiting manual scavenging.

Further, the OUSS outlines the contours of the OUSP implementation over ten years (2017- 2027) outlining expected outcomes and allo­cating responsibilities to various government actors at state, district and local government levels. The Odisha Urban Septage Guidelines (2016) and the Model Regulations for Sewage and Septage Management for ULBs (2018) have served as useful tools and guides for ULBs seek­ing to implement FSSM initiatives.

The division of responsibility between the gov­ernment actors/institutions at the state, district and local level has been clearly articulated in the OUSP and OUSS. Each government actor at the state, district and local level, has been allotted well-defined roles and responsibilities per their constitutional man­dates.

While the state government has been made responsible for preparing the “Guidelines on Sewerage and Septage Management” for cities and towns, the onus of implementation of FSSM initiatives rests with ULBs. The district governments have been entrusted with the re­sponsibility of facilitating the creation of “common treatment facilities”, providing land for these facilities and monitoring the implementation of FSSM initiatives across the urban centres in the district.

To ensure a continued focus on FSSM, ODF has been defined as both Open Defecation Free and Open Discharge Free. The application of an incremental approach, from ODF to ODF++ has ensured that cities and towns can vi­sualise their ultimate goal and move towards it in a stepwise manner.

While the policy framework outlines the roles and responsibilities of each actor a need was felt to build awareness among these actors about their roles related to FSSM and this com­ponent was facilitated under Project Nirmal’s institutional capacity building interventions.

Capacity building of officials and elected rep­resentatives on FSSM and engagement with non-state actors (including public, private sector and private informal sector) were also identified as key areas of interventions to ensure speedy and effective implementation of the FSSM initiatives in the state.

 

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: Creating An Enabling Policy Environment For Implementing FSM In Small Towns’ 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