Sustainable city-wide sanitation for all is the only way to clean our rivers, including the Ganga: CSE

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River Pollution
River Pollution

Sustainable city-wide sanitation for all is the only way to clean our rivers, including the Ganga: CSE

 “Evidence suggests that the pandemic-induced lockdown did not make any substantive difference to the water quality of rivers with respect to their biological load, as domestic wastewater still found its way into the rivers. It is clear that without sustainable city-wide sanitation for all, it is impossible to clean our rivers,” said Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) at a high-level virtual meeting held yesterday on how to achieve city-wide sanitation for making rivers pollution-free.

The meeting – titled ‘Mainstreaming Faecal Sludge and Septage Management in Ganga Basin’— was co-hosted by CSE and the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). Upendra Prasad Singh, secretary, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, chaired it. Among the key speakers were Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, director general, NMCG; G Mathi Vathanan, principal secretary, H&UD Department, Odisha; Sunita Narain; and Suresh Kumar Rohilla,senior director, water and wastewater management, CSE.

Over 300 participants attended the meeting, including chief secretaries and members of state pollution control boards of all states and key officials of NMCG and SMCG.

Rajiv Ranjan Mishra,who moderated the proceedings, said in his opening remarks: “No solution can be called the complete solution — to achieve city-wide sanitation, we must complement the existing capacity of sewage treatment with faecal sludge management practices, which will not only help in containing indiscriminate discharge of faecal sludge in the neighbourhood but also contribute to pollution abatement of our water bodies. It is time we scaled up the pilot initiatives across the country.”

Speaking on the occasion, Upendra Prasad Singh highlightedthe importance of “effective on-ground work towards septage management by various states in tandem with the national guidelines”. “It is critical to explore alternative solutions to address the challenges in sewerage management,” he noted. Talking about the initiatives undertaken by the government of Odisha, G Mathi Vathanan pointed out that compared to a centralised sewerage system, implementing FSSM was not only economical but also less time-consuming.

Odisha, in fact, deserves special mention in this context. According to Vathanan, the pollution load in rivers has reduced since the state’s 10 faecal sludge treatment plants became operational. Most of these plants are being run and maintained by women’s self-help groups and transgender self-help groups; in fact, in one of the cities, members of SHGs are managing the whole sanitation chain from operating the public toilets and transporting faecal sludge to maintaining the FSTPs.

Narain and Suresh Rohilla, who put forth CSE’s observations and experiences on the subject, explained how the SFD (Shit Flow Diagram) tool — which helps in mapping the flow of excreta throughout a city– works. CSE has joined hands with government agencies to promote SFDs as a viable initiative, and the first two phases of this promotion exercise have brought forth promising results.

Introducing the third phase of the programme, Rohilla said: “In Phase III, the NMCG will be the core partner of CSE in scaling up the use of SFDs for better planning, advocacy and monitoring progress of sanitation in cities.”The third phase of the SFD programme was virtually launched on this occasion.

Pratyusha Mukherjee
Pratyusha Mukherjee

By Ms. Pratyusha Mukherjee, an active Journalist working for BBC and other media outlets, also a special contributor to IBG News & IBG NEWS BANGLA. In her illustrated career she has covered many major events.