Faecal Sludge Management: a crucial aspect of WASH

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The WEDC Conference 2016 had an impressive line up of paper presentations, side sessions and capacity building workshops across the entire WASH value chain and proved to be an interesting and engaging experience. I participated and interacted with the presenters, participants and facilitators mostly involved with CLTS and scaling up rural sanitation. The learning and sharing side session organized by the CLTS Hub was appropriately timed at the beginning of the conference, setting the context for understanding the WASH context in Ghana as well as other African countries. This blog is particularly related to one of the WEDC capacity building workshops- introduction to design approach for fecal sludge treatment, organized by CAWST and EAWAG.

Faecal sludge treatment is a topic I know very little about and one that is emerging as a crucial segment of WASH implementation even in rural areas. With more and more toilets being constructed with septic tanks as the waste disposal solution, it is important to understand what is meant by faecal sludge, how to characterize and identify the treatment objective and processes involved. The three-hour session was a very interesting and informative one with the facilitators employing several different methodologies to help the participants get an introduction to the subject. The main aspects covered in the session were the variables to be considered, the basic aspects of designing a faecal sludge treatment plant, quantification of faecal sludge, characterization, treatment objectives and treatment use.

What I felt most interesting about the session was the practical approach to understanding the technical information regarding faecal sludge treatment. For instance, when we think of faecal sludge we essentially think of human excreta. However, through a group exercise, we were able to identify that human excreta is but one part of faecal sludge and the rest varies based on the waste disposal method, duration of storage, amount of grey water and other factors. The other interesting aspect was the different ways to treat faecal sludge such as pathogen inactivation, stabilization, and dewatering and nutrient management. Through these different processes, treated faecal sludge could be used for various purposes that benefit the environment. I realized how important it is to invest our time and resources into these processes as a critical step for improving our environment. Lastly, the use of a wide range of methods such as group discussion, interactive exercises, games and songs, and illustrations helped participants to be engaged and learn in an active and fun manner.

Vijeta Rao Bejjanki is an independent consultant.

Date: 22 July 2016
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