Consultation on sustainable sanitation at Arghyam Trust Bangalore (9th Sept 2009)

A consultation was organised by Arghyam Trust on 9th September 2009 at Bangalore, to share civil society experiences regarding sustainable sanitation with the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission was represented at the event by Dr. Mihir Shah. The focus of the consultation was largely on rural sanitation.

Bases on the discussions and inputs from the presentations of the participants, a general consensus was built, based on which specific recommendations were made to the Planning Commission.

Brief report of proceedings

The meeting was inaugurated by Dr. Mihir Shah, Planning Commission and Ms. Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson, Arghyam. This was followed by an introductory presentation by Arghyam team members on Sustainable and Ecological Sanitation, as also about the purpose and agenda of the consultation.

The  first session was focussed on Sustainable Sanitation, and included presentations by Water Aid, Gramalaya, UNICEF, Utthan, WSP, TSC District Coodinator and Gram Panchayat members. The second session was focussed on Ecological Sanitation and included presentations by UAS Bangalore, SCOPE, MYRADA   and REAL.

The concluding session centred on summarising the key points of the days' discussion and finalising of recommendations to the Planning Commission, by the participants. The related presentations/documents are appended with this announcement.

Some of the questions/issues that were discussed in the meeting

Sustainable Sanitation

  • Are there gaps in the sustainability of conventional toilet designs? Are toilet designs in TSC working on the ground the way they have been planned and envisaged? What are the barriers to successful implementation?
  • What are the participant organisations' experiences and observations regarding sustained toilet usage by the community? What are  the observations regarding slippage back to open defecation, including NGP villages?
  • TSC currently has a fair amount of emphasis on soft components of awareness building and IEC. Is this sufficient? What more needs to be done to increase adoption and usage
  • What do people do when the pit in single pit toilets fills up? What practices are being used to clean a clogged pit or to empty a full pit?
  • Is menstrual hygiene being addressed adequately?
  • Do the proposed new TSC guidelines address previous concerns regarding sustainability?
Ecosan Approach to Sustainable Sanitation
  • How appropriate is Ecological sanitation in India socially? How can acceptance among the public be increased?
  • What are the research areas that need urgent attention in order for Ecosan to be rolled out on a large scale?
  • Is Ecological sanitation ready for incorporation into government programmes particularly TSC? What can the shape of this be? What are the geographic areas to focus on?
  • What is the fertilizer value of human waste and what kind of policies are needed in order to tap into this potential. Is there broad agreement on practices for safe handling and reuse of excreta?
  • What is the cost of Ecosan toilets? Could you share your experience with alternative toilet designs that could reduce the cost, or use locally available materials, without compromising on usability and maintainability?

Some definitions
Sustainable Sanitation: The main objective of a sanitation system is to protect and promote human health by providing a clean environment and breaking the cycle of disease. A definition of sustainable sanitation that has been used is: “In order to be sustainable, a sanitation system has to be not only economically viable, socially acceptable, and technically and institutionally appropriate, it should also protect the environment and the natural resources.”

Ecological Sanitation ("Ecosan"/ Productive sanitation): is one approach towards creating a sustainable sanitation system by recycling the nutrients found in human excreta. The key features of ecosan are prevention of pollution and disease caused by human excreta and management of human urine and faeces as resources rather than as waste. Conventional approaches to sanitation misplace these nutrients and dispose them and turn the cycle into a linear flow.

Event Date