In South Asia, countries have recognized this need to improve sanitation over the last decade.
Many have made good progress in increasing their basic sanitation, such as providing more access to toilets. However, most urban centers in these countries still rely significantly on septic tanks for treating their sewage. They are unable to provide adequate facilities or regulations for emptying, collecting, transporting, and treating fecal sludge. Fecal sludge is dumped randomly into nearby rivers or on marginal lands without any treatment, posing public health and environmental hazards.
Fecal sludge, if well managed, can be a source of energy and fertilizer. Moreover, it can advance holistic sanitation. As a result, fecal sludge management (FSM) has increasingly become a priority development agenda for national and local governments, as well as development partners.
In Nepal, the Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation recently approved and issued a Fecal Sludge Management Institutional and Regulatory Framework. This makes Nepal the first country in South Asia to have a countrywide FSM framework (see related news).
Nepal’s Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS) organized the first national workshop on fecal sludge management in 2015, which was attended by all local agencies and key stakeholders in the country.
According to Nepal’s 2011 census, 30% of the toilets in urban areas are connected to sewer systems while 48% rely on septic tanks. However, as more villages, districts, and municipalities are declared open defecation free (ODF) in Nepal, the challenge to boost sanitation policies, regulations, and practices remains. This includes changing the open defecation practices of some residents, as well as addressing the water pollution caused largely by the unregulated disposal of fecal sludge and untreated wastewater.ADB—through the Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund under its Water Financing Partnership Facility, a collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—has been supporting and working closely with its South Asian developing member countries, particularly Nepal, Bangladesh, and India, to prepare and establish regulatory frameworks on FSM. ADB is also assisting with piloting innovative and appropriate FSM interventions that can be scaled up and replicated in the region in future.Bangladesh, supported by the Sanitation Financing Partnership Trust Fund, is also on its way to introducing the FSM regulatory framework. Bangladesh’s Local Government Division, under the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, has completed all preparatory works and consultations, and expects approval and implementation soon.