Speaker: Abhilaasha Nagarajan
There is a negative perception of waste treatment facilities related to odour, dust, and noise. However, leveraging the fact that fecal sludge treatment plants (FSTP) is a new concept in Tamil Nadu, they can be positioned as ‘resource centers’ for government officers, sector professionals, and the public to learn about Fecal Sludge Management (FSM). They can also be used as a platform to highlight the role of sanitation workers in FSM and create awareness among sanitation workers about their health, safety, and welfare. This paper discusses TNUSSP’s efforts to position FSTPs as resource centers, and increasing multi-stakeholder engagement.
As part of the statewide strategy for the implementation of FSM based on the operative guidelines issued by the Government of Tamil Nadu, the Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department, with the support of TNUSSP prepared a State Investment Plan (SIP) in 2018. The SIP estimates the investment required by the GoTN to ensure total sanitation across 663 urban local bodies (ULB) in a phased manner.
The SIP was developed on two principles – optimal utilisation of treatment facilities through clustering of ULBs and co-treatment of fecal sludge at existing sewage treatment plants (STP). A cluster approach, wherein ULBs are clustered around an existing treatment facility or a potential one, within 10 km of the treatment facility, has been adopted to ensure optimum utilisation of infrastructure. As a part of the SIP, 60 FSTPs are under various stages of construction in Tamil Nadu. TNUSSP aims to develop the FSTPs as resource centers with proper landscaping and visitor-friendly premises.
The FSTP in Periyanaicken Palayam (PNP) in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu has already been developed into a resource center, with support for landscaping and other aesthetic elements. A detailed plan for reuse of treated wastewater and growing indigenous plants/crops which suit the soil type and require low maintenance was suggested.
Communication materials such as wall paintings and hoardings about the plant, FSM, sanitation workers were created and installed on site. A visitors center was also established to host other communication materials such as posters about the full cycle of sanitation. Exposure visits were conducted for students from local engineering colleges and schools to help them understand about the FSTP and FSM.
Based on the pilot project, a suggestive guideline for support for landscaping and aesthetic uplift of FSTPs in Tamil Nadu was developed for implementation in the upcoming 60 FSTPs.
It was suggested that FSTPs have a simple landscape with indigenous plants that could be maintained with the treated water from the facility. The site must include toilets with a changing room for the staff and de-sludging operators (DSO), as well as space for pedestrian and vehicle movement. It has also been proposed to set up a visitor’s engagement center with relevant communication resources related to the FSTP as well as the various aspects of sanitation.
The guidelines include:
The guidelines have been passed on to the Government of Tamil Nadu, and are currently being implemented in some of the upcoming FSTPs.
Positioning FSTPs as resource centers will not only help change public perception about ‘treatment facilities’ but will also create awareness among the stakeholders about related environmental concerns such as safe management of fecal sludge through treatment facilities, regular emptying of septic tanks and proper de-sludging practices.
Additionally, FSTPs can serve as a place enhancing the safety and well-being of DSOs and other sanitation workers, if appropriate sanitation and washing facilities are provided. It can also be a potential place for them to socialise and relax, as well as a platform to create awareness about safety, and access information on various social and health schemes available for them.
The generic guidance suggested on landscaping, on making FSTPs user friendly by providing details on-site circulation (vehicular & pedestrian) and gender-segregated toilets, suggestions and sample material to position FSTPs as resource centers to disseminate information about the facility, its functioning and the full cycle of sanitation, can be adapted and applied for FSTPs and other treatment facilities such as STPs and decanting stations as well, thereby creating more avenues for taking FSM to stakeholders across the full cycle of sanitation.