Faecal Sludge Management in Kathmandu Valley - current situation and outlook
Kathmandu valley faces numerous environmental problems due to the rapid urban growth and unplanned settlement. One of the serious problems is the river and water pollution in the valley due to disposal of untreated wastewater from households. Much effort is needed to improve the environmental sanitation situation. Experiences show that sewerage and large-scale wastewater treatment systems are not the appropriate solution curbing pollution because often they are too expensive and require high operational costs. Therefore other alternative appropriate approaches need to be explored. One of the altcmatives would be to provide onsite excreta management systems such as use of septic tanks. However, these systems should be complemented by faecal sludge management (FSM). Currently, there is a lack of proper FSM system in the Kathmandu Valley. Thus this study aimed to explore and document the existing state of art practise and problems in order to help to improve the situation and suppoit for future planning of FSM.
The study found that the issue of FSM has not been addressed at the policy level. There are no policies, standards and strategies developed so far. Some relevant legislation in relation to excreta management such as the National Building Code and by laws of the municipality mandates the need to construct septic tanks in each house. However, the enforcement of the codes and by laws is very weak. Similarly, there are conflicting roles and responsibilities between stakeholders for water supply and sanitation management for Kathmandu Valley. A few stakeholders are currently involved in FSM of the Kathmandu Valley such as the Kathmandu Municipality (KMC), Private Operators collecting faecal sludge (FS), Manual Pit Emptier and Private Households with septic tanks. Kathmandu Municipality has been playing a lead role in FSM in the Kathmandu Valley.
The characteristics of faecal sludge of the Kathmandu Valley show an average TS content of 27 g/L out of which 65% of is volatile solids indicating that FS were only partially stabilised in the septic tanks. The study estimated that around 65,000 to 130,000 m3 of FS is generated annually out of the share of mechanical emptying is around 60%. Currently, it is estimated that around 10,000 m3 of FS is collected mechanically by different private operators and KMC. However, only 60% of this collected sludge is emptied in the treatment plant. Private sector collects about 80% of the FS and the remaining is collected by KMC. The economic analysis of the FS collection service providers shows that private sector is profiting from the FSM collection business whereas the public sector like KMC is in loss. This indicates poor operational and financial management system within the public sectors. The difference between the estimated annual FS generation and the cuirent mechanical emptying rate shows that there is more business opportunity in future.
To improve the FSM situation in the Valley; the study foresees the need to bring coordination between the different stakeholders involved in water supply and sanitation. An Urban National Sanitation Policy should be developed and must address the issue of FSM as an integral component of sanitation. The study also recommends the need for improvement in the overall system of faecal FSM from the point of generation to disposal and treatment practices. Mandatory provisions for septic tank construction backed up by standard designs could improve the use of septic tanks at household level. Similarly, it is recommended that treatment and management of overall FSM can be improved by strengthening the private sector to operate and manage small-scale treatment plants under the supervision of local municipalities, authorities and civil groups.