Strengthening institutional arrangements for faecal sludge management

An assessment at the beginning of Project Nirmal indicated the absence of institutional mechanisms for effec­tive coordination and collaboration among the various government departments across state, district and local levels (Image: SuSanA Secretariat)
An assessment at the beginning of Project Nirmal indicated the absence of institutional mechanisms for effec­tive coordination and collaboration among the various government departments across state, district and local levels (Image: SuSanA Secretariat)

Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) has close linkages with a variety of development themes such as environment, health and human rights. This necessitates the involvement of a va­riety of institutions across all three levels of government i.e. national, state and local.

Sanitation is listed in the state list and the state governments have been vested with the power to make laws. Further, the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 places the responsibility for planning and delivery of ur­ban services, including sanitation and FSM on Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).

Institutional arrangements for sanita­tion and FSM at various levels

With respect to institutions, at the national level, three ministries are directly involved in the sanitation/FSM sector - Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA); Ministry of Environment, Forest and Cli­mate Change (MoEF&CC); and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJ&E).

In Odisha, a variety of institutions are involved in the sanitation sector. Paramount among them is the Housing and Urban Development Depart­ment (H&UDD) which is responsible for “ensur­ing proper and planned growth of cities and towns with adequate infrastructure, amenities and services provided to the citizens through ULBs and parastatal agencies”.

Project Nirmal (PN) provided technical support to H&UDD towards creating an enabling environment for FSM in the state. As a result, the Odisha Urban Sanitation Policy, 20177 (OUSP, 2017) and the Odisha Urban Sanitation Strategy, 20178 (OUSS, 2017) were prepared. Later, the state gov­ernment also prepared the Urban Septage Man­agement Guidelines, 2016 and the Model Regu­lations for Sewage and Septage Management for ULBs, 2018.

The H&UDD is responsible for implementing the OUSS. It functions through three Directorates, namely, Directorate of Municipal Administration (DMA), Directorate of Town Planning (DoTP) and Chief Engineer, Public Health Engineering Orga­nization (PHEO) – Urban, all of which are actively involved in the sanitation sector. The H&UDD also has, under its administra­tive control, a host of subsidiary organisations to achieve its mandate – key among these in the sanitation sector are the State Urban Development Agency (SUDA) and Odisha Urban Infrastructure Development Fund (OUIDF).

Other state institutions which are involved in the sanitation sector include Odisha Water Supply and Sewerage Board (OWSSB), Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) and the Odisha State Commission for Safai Karamcharis (OSCSK). OWSSB serves as the State Level Nodal Agency (SLNA) for Government of India’s (GoI’s) missions and projects related to sanitation including SBM-U and AMRUT.

Further, while the OSPCB is respon­sible for ensuring compliance to the national environmental laws, the OSCSK is responsible for ensuring compliance to national laws that have banned dry latrines, employment of persons for manually carrying human excreta as well as “haz­ardous cleaning” in relation to sewers and septic tanks.

At the local level, ULBs are responsible for implementing sanitation relat­ed initiatives. All ULBs in Odisha have passed FSSM byelaws based on the Model Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Regulations, 2018 developed by the state government.

ULBs are also responsible for providing desludging services for OSS systems (either on their own or through private service providers), under­taking O&M of treatment facilities (including Sewage Treatment Plants and Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants), implementation of pollu­tion abatement schemes under National River Conservation Plan (NRCP), implementation of sanitation and FSM related initiatives under the GoI’s mission and programs (including SBM-U and AMRUT), and ensuring safety of sanitation workers.

Other actors at the local level, involved through Project Nirmal are Non-Governmental Organisa­tions (NGOs) (including Practical Action, Bhu­baneshwar and Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi) and funding organisations (including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Arghyam Trust).

Institutional assessments

In the initial stages of Project Nirmal, institutional assess­ments were carried out at the state level and for ULBs where the Project is being implemented, namely, Angul and Dhenkanal Municipality, in order to ascertain their capacities to manage and deliver urban sanitation services including FSM. These assessments brought to light that there was:

  • absence of institutional mechanisms for effec­tive coordination and collaboration among the various government departments across state, district and local levels;
  • low level of awareness among government institutions regarding their roles and respon­sibilities related to FSM;
  • limited capacities, in terms of technical and managerial skills, related to FSM among offi­cials at state, district and local level; and
  • absence of community structures that could facilitate community engagement at the slum and ward level.

Strengthening institutional mechanisms for effective coordination and collaboration

The institutional assessments, undertaken as a part of Project Nirmal, revealed that while there were mul­tiple institutions engaged in the sanitation/FSM sector, institutional structures and mechanisms for ensuring effective co-ordination and collab­oration among these institutions were absent. This was recognised as a potential impediment for effective implementation of FSM in the state and the OUSS, 2017 sought to address the same by recommending an elaborate institutional struc­ture for effective coordination and collaboration.

The institu­tional structure has three tiers with a High Powered Committee (HPC) as the apex body at the state level providing overall guidance and direction to urban sanitation initiatives in the state, and overseeing the implementation of the OUSP, 2017.

Given that most ULBs and especially the small and medium sized ULBs, had considerable defi­cits in terms of capacities to plan, implement and monitor urban sanitation programs, a district lev­el mechanism was considered to be an appropri­ate institution for guiding and assisting ULBs on urban sanitation, till such time that ULBs build their own capacities.

The District Collector (or an offi­cer nominated by him/her) has been designated as the nodal officer for urban sani­tation related programs. Further, District Urban Sanitation Committee (DUSC) has been created at District Urban Development Agency (DUDA) as the district-level monitoring and implement­ing agency for all urban sanitation programmes, schemes and strategies.

At the city/town level, a City Sanitation Task Force (CSTF) is to be created in all ULBs under the leadership of the Commissioner/Executive Of­ficer. Under Project Nirmal, CSTFs were set up in Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities. The CSTF has been en­trusted with the responsibility of designing, im­plementing and monitoring all sanitation related programs in their respective city/town. The CSTF is assisted by a city level Project Implementation Unit (PIU), headed by the Commissioner/Execu­tive Officer.

Under Project Nirmal, a need was felt to create sub-city level (slum and ward) engagement structures in order to enable meaningful participation of all house­holds, especially those residing in slums, in the planning and management of sanitation service delivery.

Thus, in Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities, Slum Sanitation Committees (SSCs) have been constituted at the slum level while Ward Sanitation Committees (WSCs) have been constituted at the ward level. Through their representation in WSCs and CSTF, the SSCs participate in the ward and city lev­el planning and implementation processes.

Building awareness on FSM

Project Nirmal has accorded a lot of importance on building awareness among institutions and functionar­ies on their roles and responsibilities related to FSM as well as strengthening their capacities to implement FSM related initiatives. These have been visual­ised as an ongoing process through the life cycle of the project and not a one-time input.

The awareness generation and capacity building ini­tiatives under Project Nirmal have been a mix of orientation programs, exposure visits, and trainings, and have had state, district and town officials as their target audiences.

Lessons learnt

FSSM has close linkages with a variety of devel­opment themes thereby necessitating the involvement of a variety of institutions across all levels of government (National, State, District and Local). However, there was an absence of structures or mechanisms to ensure effective coordination and collaboration among these institutions. Recognizing this as a potential impediment for effective implementation of FSM in the state, the OUSP (2017) proposed an elaborate three-tiered institutional structure at the state, district and local level which has been put in place by the Government of Odi­sha.

Placing the responsibility on officials who are at the helm, namely, the Chief Secretary, Government of Odisha at the State level, the District Collector at the District level and the Commissioner/ Executive Officer at the ULB level has ensured (a) speedy implementation of urban sanitation / FSM related programs, (b) effective implementation of OUSP and OUSS and (c) ensured coordination and col­laboration between line departments across different levels of government (state, district and local). The reporting mechanisms created between the district and state level, with the DUSC reporting to SSD, has ensured the smooth flow of information.

The Government of Odisha has been prag­matic in acknowledging that ULBs, especially the ones in small and medium urban centres, were deficient in terms of capacities to plan, implement and monitor urban sanitation/FSM related programs. Rather than burdening them, which would have resulted in sub opti­mal results for the sector, the Government of Odisha chose to entrust the responsibility of guiding and assisting ULBs to the district lev­el institutions till such time that the ULBs are capable of taking on these roles. This has gone a long way in ensuring smooth and speedy im­plementation of FSM programs.

To create buy-in for FSM a need was felt to create awareness among key govern­ment stakeholders about their roles and re­sponsibilities along with building their capac­ities to be able to take on the envisaged roles. A mix of orientation programs, exposure visits and training programs have worked well to create awareness and build capacities among state, district and local level institutions.

Of all the capacity building programs, exposure visits were found to be the most successful as the participants (officials of H&UDD, districts, Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities) were able to see first-hand the operations of FSTPs and also got an opportunity to interact with the operators of the plants. These visits went a long way in ensuring setting up of FSTPs, not just in Angul and Dhenkanal Municipalities, but also in many other towns across the state.

Further, as an outcome of the exposure visit to Malaysia the H&UDD finalised the “Invest­ment Plan for Septage Management” which was subsequently approved by the state gov­ernment. Besides, a Septage Management Division has been proposed as a part of the OWSSB for facilitating the implementation of FSSM initiatives in the ULBs.


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: Strengthening Institutional Arrangements and Capacities For Implementing FSM Initiatives’ 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:

Post By: Amita Bhaduri