New Delhi: “Where does my shit go?” This is a question Naina Lal Kidwai, Chairperson, India Sanitation Coalition, wants everyone to start asking for India to truly achieve the Swachh Bharat Mission goals. Speaking at the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swachh India 12-hour Cleanathon, she highlighted the grim reality of faecal sludge management in urban parts of the country. Though India has raised its rural sanitation coverage from 38.70 per cent to 94.73 per cent, but urban areas could raise a question mark on the nationwide cleanliness campaign, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, said Ms. Kidwai.
Ms. Kidwai is of the opinion that there has been a rise in the rural sanitation coverage which is commendable and a cause for celebration, but urban is still a long journey, reason being lack of proper faecal sludge management. Talking about the same, Ms. Kidwai said,
Yes, we had success with respect to toilet construction. Yes, we are beginning to use them with the behaviour change, but we need to make sure that what is being funneled into the toilet is being treated properly.
Explaining why it is important to manage faecal sludge effectively, Ms. Kidwai said,
If it (excreta) is going right back into the environment which it originally went into, we will have had a classic failure of having only funnel the shit into the toilet to back where it came from rather than to have treated it and use the sludge as it can be used for energy, and fertiliser.
While faecal waste can be treated and used to generate energy or fertiliser, waste water from toilets can be used to powering power plants or for the purpose of irrigation. But to do all this, we need to know what happens to the waste once it is generated?
As citizens, let’s begin to ask the question ‘where does my shit go’ and make our municipalities responsible, make our Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) accountable. Make builders from whom we buy buildings, our flat accountable to tell us what they do with the faecal sludge that flows from where we live, said Ms. Kidwai.
Answering the question, if in next 10 years, we can solve the problem of faecal sludge management and clean rivers and oceans, Ms. Kidwai said, one of the big solutions that have come up is using distributed plant that is small sewage plants which can be placed in RWAs and cost one-tenth or one-eighth of the large sewage plants.
If you are asking me a 10 year question and we go for these distributed plants, they can certainly help solve a lot of problems. Putting up large sewage plants is of course where we have failed to keep up with the requirement. They take a lot of time and money. I am hopeful that at least we will begin to solve the problem if not solve it completely. But we as citizens, we have to keep asking ‘where the shit goes’ because that is the only way our governments will be accountable to us.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.