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Making septage management work in Indonesia

July 2017

Tackling the issue of wastewater management takes various forms and interventions.


What was previously thought of and widely accepted as an approach—putting up huge, centralized wastewater management systems—is slowly being challenged by decentralized, big impact interventions. Constraints such as the procurement of land for treatment plants and difficulties in laying new sewer lines compound the situation. Septage management is one solution to wastewater issues as it off ers a viable alternative in expanding sanitation coverage to reach the non sewered segments of society.

Under the ADB-funded Metropolitan Sanitation Management Investment Project, a capacity development technical assistance project was completed. The project resulted in the creation of a unit in the local government directly responsible for the integral sanitation management in cities particularly, septage management.


For cities such as Jambi and Pekanbaru in Indonesia, the responsibility of providing sanitation services fall on the shoulders of Dinas Kebersihan, Pertamanan dan Pemakaman Kota Jambi and Dinas Perumahan, Permukiman dan Cipta Karya Kota Pekanbaru, respectively. These operators have built new septage treatment plants in the two cities. However, these plants were not commissioned and not operational at the time, due to lack of operational capacity.

The operators’ desire to participate in the WOPs program was borne out of their need to learn from advanced utility operators in the field of septage management. They requested mentoring in maximizing and improving the delivery of septage services as well as guidance on starting operations of their septage treatment facilities.

The mentor under the program is Spain’s Empresa Metropolitana de Abastecimineto y Saneamiento de Aguas de Sevilla S.A. (EMASESA), a public utility that provides water and wastewater services to over one million people living in Seville.

EMASESA started the collaboration with a diagnostic visit to the septage facilities of the two cities in 2015. This enabled them to gauge firsthand the sanitation situation, assess the current state of sanitation systems and infrastructure, and develop a proposal on possible courses of action to take during the twinning arrangement.


This was followed by a second mentor visit in January 2016, which focused on classroom discussions and training sessions covering: (i) improving laboratory, pretreatment, sampling procedures, and discharge and emptying of septic tanks; (ii) risk assessment and safety measures; (iii) septage management operation and process controls; and (iv) collection systems operation and control.

On November 2016, representatives from Dinas Kebersihan, Pertamanan dan Pemakaman Kota Jambi and Dinas Perumahan, Permukiman dan Cipta Karya Kota Pekanbaru were then invited to visit EMASESA’s main office and observe how operations are being conducted. They toured the control center and wastewater treatment and purification facilities. These helped the participants understand and better appreciate the importance of continuous human capital development and technology-driven processes to improve service delivery. 

EMASESA did a final visit during the first quarter of 2017. The activity highlighted specific recommendations towards improving treatment processes in the existing sludge treatment facilities (e.g., installation of new equipment and rehabilitation of components), proper maintenance of facilities, and an optimized design of septic tanks.

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