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Paving the way for improving sanitation in Nepal’s small towns

July 2017

Kathmandu Valley is Nepal’s economic and political capital, and is the most populous and developed area in the country.


Outside the valley, Nepal has many small towns with a population ranging from 5,000 to 40,000 inhabitants. Provision of water supply and sanitation services to these small towns is a responsibility of the water users and sanitation committees (WUSCs). WUSCs are supervised and supported by the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS), under the Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation, in terms of building their institutional capacities.


ADB’s Third Small Towns Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project (TSTWSSSP) was implemented in 2014. The project will fund physical investments in up to 26 small towns as well as soft infrastructure in the form of strengthening sector policy, regulatory and institutional capacity service delivery, and project management. A grant component supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through ADB’s Sanitation Trust Fund allows for the design and construction of pilot FSM facilities in four of these small towns: Kakarvitta, Mahendranagar, Chandrauta, and Charali.


To complement the grant component and specifi cally assist the small towns to anticipate the operational issues arising from the establishment of such facilities, the four towns were paired with an established FSM operator from Viet Nam, the Haiphong Sewerage and Drainage Company (SADCO).

SADCO is a publicly owned sewerage and drainage operator serving around 800,000 people in the third largest city of Viet Nam. It is responsible for operating and maintaining about 540 kilometers of sewer mains and providing desludging services to more than 160,000 septic tanks in four districts.


Being a former beneficiary of the WOPs program, Haiphong SADCO expressed its keen interest and willingness to share its good operational practices to other water utility operators in the region. Specifi cally, Haiphong SADCO helped the four WUSCs to setup and initiate a sound and financially robust FSM operation in their areas.


Haiphong SADCO and the recipient WUSCs developed a joint work plan, which included remote consultations, study visits, and on-the-job training sessions. Exposure to operational and social conditions aff ecting FSM was a key component of the work plan. The active involvement of the Project Management Offi ce of the TSTWSSSP helped maximize the sharing of knowledge among the partners. The twinning arrangement covered the following areas: 

  • Building up working knowledge on FSM, which includes operational or technical, social, regulatory and financial aspects;

  • Establishing the design standard for septic tanks;

  • Completion of public septic tanks and toilet designs as well as establishing the required maintenance activities and tariff mechanism to implement;

  • Designing information, education, and communication activities around FSM acceptance;

  • Preparation of materials for the conduct public awareness campaigns; and

  • Conduct of seminar to gauge public sentiments on the public awareness campaigns.


On closure of the partnership, much progress on FSM has been made, and the twinning contributed to the following:

  • Approval of the proposed institutional and regulatory framework to implement FSM in Nepal;

  • Development of business models for the towns of Kakarvitta and Charali;

  • Development of the operational manual and service level agreement;

  • Development of a standardized design and guidelines for septic tank systems; and

  • Integration of FSM in the Nepali government’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Policy Framework.


Going forward, the WUSCs expect to push through with the bidding out, construction, and commissioning of the fecal sludge treatment plants by mid-2017 to 2018. The FSM systems in Kakarvitta and Charali will be the benchmark for other small towns in Nepal.

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