Faecal Sludge Management

"Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) refers to the safe containment, collection, transportation, treatment, and reuse of fecal sludge from pit latrines, septic tanks, or other onsite sanitation systems. "

The UN General Assembly recognizes safe sanitation as a basic human right. It is essential for a healthy and dignified life. However, according to the JMP report released by WHO in 2023, 3.4 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation. This represents close to 40% of the world’s population. The majority of this population resides in the Global South, including parts of Asia, South America, and Africa. In simple terms, the human excreta from this population remains exposed, posing potential environmental contamination and public health challenges.

According to a 2012 study by the WHO, economic losses caused by poor water and sanitation could reach up to 1.3% of GDP in 135 countries. The UNICEF-WHO State of Sanitation report for 2020 states that inadequate sanitation directly or indirectly contributes to over 49 million Disability Adjusted Life Years from diarrheal diseases and other conditions, including soil-transmitted helminth infections, malnutrition, and problems related to inadequate wastewater management practices.

Issues with the traditional approach to safe and managed sanitation.
The traditional sanitation method connects toilets with sewer networks that transport waste for treatment.

However, this approach is not feasible in many areas of the Global South due to limited water supply, low incomes, and lack of investments. As a result, about 90% of households in the Global South rely on Onsite Sanitation Systems, including both urban and rural areas. Even in the Global North, rural areas with sparse populations depend on Onsite Sanitation Systems, such as prefabricated systems like Johkhasau in Japan.

Urban areas will heavily rely on Onsite Sanitation Systems in the future. This is because most Urban growth will occur in the Global South. The goal is to have 100% sewer connections, but these countries struggle with population growth. It is unrealistic to expect them to win this race with their current resources and skills. As cities expand without proper planning, Onsite Sanitation Systems will be the default investments, especially in Informal settlements.

The FSM Challenge in the Global South.

Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) involves handling and processing faecal sludge from pit latrines and septic tanks. FSM is crucial for meeting Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation for All) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).

Why is Faecal Sludge Management a Challenge in the Global South? The Global North has managed the situation with many Onsite sanitation systems. However, most Onsite sanitation systems in the Global South are not designed according to standards. They are either too small or too big, which affects bacterial activity. As a result, the effluent from these systems contaminates water resources by percolating into groundwater or entering stormwater. This contamination seriously threatens water security, especially in a world already facing climate change impacts. According to the WHO-UNICEJMP 2023 report, 1.9 billion people live in fragile contexts, and more than 25% of the world’s population is likely to face threats to essential water, sanitation, and hygiene services due to worsening climate change impacts.

FSM Solutions

The standard method for FSM involves regular emptying of Onsite Sanitation Systems and safe treatment of the contents. Professionals in developed countries commonly do this. However, in the Global South, the sector is largely unorganized. Due to the negative consequences of improper design and implementation of onsite sanitation systems, various activities must be undertaken throughout the value chain. This includes addressing issues with toilets, onsite sanitation systems, trucks, treatment systems, and reuse options. Multiple stakeholders must be engaged, such as truck emptiers, masons, farmers, and treatment plant operators.

CDD India’s FSM Solutions
  • We conducted a thorough 6-month study in Sircilla to document the sludge accumulation rate in onsite sanitation systems. This research earned us a Global Award for the best paper in the sector by IHE-Delft.
  • CDD India recognized the need to handle Faecal Sludge from onsite sanitation systems. It was being disposed of improperly in water bodies and drains. In Devanahalli (Bangalore, India), we established the first FST (Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant). We pioneered low-cost Nature Based Solutions to reuse treated Faecal Sludge safely. Faecal Sludge contains essential nutrients for food security. The best way to manage it is to remove pathogens and safely reuse it for agriculture.
  • The business models are being demonstrated in the towns of Devanahalli and Dhenkanal to ensure sustainable service delivery for safely managed sanitation.
Our Legacy

Following the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission in India, the Devanahalli FSTP sparked a significant growth of Faecal Sludge Treatment Systems throughout India. As of 2023, over 400 treatment systems in India that address faecal sludge utilize technologies developed by CDD India. CDD India has also directly contributed to over 50 projects in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Tanzania.