Planning Fecal Sludge Management Systems: Challenges Observed in a Small Town in Southern India
Fecal Sludge Treatment or Septage Management is increasingly being recognised as an effective and appropriate method to scale urban sanitation systems to achieve safe sanitation, particularly in small towns and cities. As implementation progresses, data-based evidence is emerging, highlighting the challenges faced on the ground, and the requisite planning necessary to address them. This paper presents the findings, challenges and possible ways ahead from a study conducted to provide data for Fecal Sludge Management (FSM) planning for a small town in a state in southern India. With the objective of understanding the nature of containment structures and on-ground desludging practices, 8,001 households and 1,667 establishments were studied in Periyanaicken-Palayam (PNP), a non-sewered Town Panchayat in Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu, to provide evidence for effective decision-making. The study showed wide variations in the sizing and design of the containment systems, which, when combined with the irregular frequency of desludging, has implications for FSM planning by municipal bodies. This study also highlights the methodological difficulties in studying containment systems, exposes a significant response bias given the limited understanding of containment systems within households, and spotlights the difficulty in physically verifying the reported data given the underground nature of these systems.