Archive for September, 2014

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Three trick pony

September 28, 2014

The three products address a part of the crisis gripping urban India, energy, water and waste.

So do you have a solar water heater?

A Rain barrel?

A kitchen waste composter?

No? What are you waiting for?

Yes? Well done then.

A solar water heater works fine for about 300 days in a year in a city like Bangalore. It preheats water for the rest of the 65 cloudy or rainy days. A hot water bath being a dire necessity for any self respecting Indian, the solar water heater is a boon. It saves money to boot with fast increasing electricity prices and pays back for itself in about 4 years. No wonder than that Bangalore has the largest number of solar water heaters for any city in India. Many solar water heaters are available in the market and the choice is wide.

A Rain Barrel or even any other form of rainwater harvesting such as a filter and storage in a sump tank or even a recharge well to top up the groundwater aquifer is another must in an era of water shortage, bad water quality and sky rocketing price for water tankers. This works for the 60 days that it rains in the city and depending on the use can supplement water requirements quite a lot. Consider getting and installing a Rain Barrel, takes half a day and you can get all the years drinking and cooking water supply straight from the Indian Ocean. Rain barrels have to be bought and installed and any well trained plumber can do that. If you want to buy rain filters many are available in the market.

The mountain of waste that a city throws up now exercises the highest political leadership of the land as well as the judiciary. The solution begins at home. A kitchen composter can take the segregated waste which can be bio-degraded and turns it to rich compost which can be used in pots and gardens to grow the organic ‘bhindi’  which you so crave or even the brinjals for that matter. This simple act of segregation , composting and recycling which would take no more than 5 minutes of your time can save tonnes of monies for the local government, acres of land and water which would otherwise be polluted beyond description and keep our environment clean. Readymade composters are available with bio-additives which hasten the process of composting  in the city and outside.

Now that you have the three essential products for basic survival

how about a cycle for moving around instead of your car ?

How about some solar lighting systems with LED bulbs?

How about a kitchen bio-gas plant to generate your cooking gas requirement?

A fast expanding list for a responsible citizen journey which you and the city will be proud of.

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Sustainable sanitation – Agenda for India

September 13, 2014

The U.N. set the Millennium Development Goals or the MDG between 2000 and  2015. Goals 4 and  7 was to halve the number of people without access to improved water or sanitation. The goal for water is likely to be reached by the deadline but sadly not for sanitation. Unfortunately in the quest to provide access to facilities for people the sustainability component was missed. This miss will hopefully be rectified when the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) come into place as the next phase of the MDGs. As estimated by UNICEF and WHO, the burden of bad sanitation for India is the death of over 386,600 children due to water borne disease particularly diarrhea, a crippling physical and mental stunting called enteropathy which disables children from absorbing nutrition and finally the loss to the economy amounting to 6.50% of the GDP in 2012 as per an estimate of the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank.

What is sustainable water supply and sanitation? A global network of individuals and institutions which have come together under the banner of the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (www.susana.org) try to answer this in the following manner. Sustainable sanitation is defined as that which is universally accessible, is used by all, that which lasts and that where the waste products are safely disposed if not productively used.

In the rural context sustainable sanitation would mean not only the construction of toilets but their continued and correct usage. After the pits are full an adequate and safe mechanism for their emptying and potentially the reuse of the waste material as fertilizer after it has been safely sanitized. It should also be remembered that a whole community approach is needed to make the environment entirely Open Defecation free, with not a single violator; else the benefits of sanitation will not accrue.

Good positive examples for sustainable rural sanitation have come from the states of Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim in particular and in the case of Sikkim the entire state has been declared as Open defecation Free. This is an example to emulate for other states particularly when more than 600 million people in India do not use a toilet.

In the urban context it would mean not only the construction of sewage lines and sewage treatment plans but their ability to convey all sewage without leaking to the STP which would then treat it to meet standards as prescribed. Ideally in a sustainable sanitation paradigm, there would be recovery of energy through bio-gas, recovery of nutrients in the waste-water stream such as Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium and finally the recovery and reuse of the water component from waste-water. The landscape of urban India is littered with leaking sewage lines, uncollected waste-water and dysfunctional sewage treatment plants and is nowhere near the sustainability desired. On plot sanitation systems too would be important in many urban areas and may be relevant for a long time given the high investmen needs for underground lines.

Chennai leads the way with four of their Sewage Treatment Plants generating enough energy through bio-gas and electricity so as to provide for about 80 % of the plants running requirement for energy.

Unfortunately both the rural and urban examples are few and far between registering as a mere blip on the requirement radar.

India will do well to invite SuSanA to set up an Indian chapter which will provide the ideas , examples, experience , knowledge and particular a platform to bring together the community of people and institutions working on sanitation to understand, discuss and implement sustainable sanitation in India at a scale and reach necessary for the problem.

The Prime Minister of India has called for a clean India and a clean Ganga. Both can be achieved only when there is sustainable sanitation for all in India.

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The eThekwini story on urban water and sanitation services

September 6, 2014

The eThekwini story on urban water and sanitation services

The World Water Week, a global gathering of people in the water sector, is currently on in Stockholm, Sweden. This is the Mecca for water practitioners where cutting edge yet practical ideas and experiences in managing the water sector is shared and discussed. At the water week various awards are given out and this year the winner for the World Water Prize is Dr John Briscoe. In the urban water sector the winner for the 2014 Stockholm Industry Water Award is the eThekwini Municipality and more specifically the eThekwini Water and Sanitation Utility (EWS) which is in charge of providing water and sanitation facilities to the greater Durban Municipal area.  Here there are many lessons for Indian water utilities and municipalities.

The eThekwini utility is responsible for serving a population of 3.6 million people spread over a vast area of 2297 square kilometers. It supplies 900 million litres per day to both formal and informal housing settlements where the informal settlements are actually 54 %. In South Africa the constitution recognizes water and sanitation as a human right and therefore a certain amount of water – 900 litres per month- is provided free to households as well as access to free sanitation in the form of a Ventilated Pit toilet at the minimum. In the greater Durban area 37 % of the families receive these free basic services as it is the Ethekwini Municipality which is designated as the agency responsible for the delivery of these rights.

What then differentiates this utility and makes it the most progressive and innovative water utility in Africa? At the heart seems to be the institutional team with a creative leadership with a vision. Neil Macleod, the outgoing head is recognized a s a great team leader with a vision. He sets out his vision as following the 5 key management issues – human resource skills, customer management, revenue management, asset management and new services delivery. Clearly lessons for Indian utility managers. With this leadership it has also been possible to generate the required political will towards innovative and progressive water and sanitation services delivery.

The second seems to be a relentless focus on customer first as well as clear service level standards. Every customer in the municipality is clear about what she can expect under the customer charter so developed as well as a clear articulation of the Service Level Standards set out by EWS.

Some of the innovative ideas tried out include the provision of more than 80000 Urine Diverting Dry Toilets (UDDT); Investigation is now on to see how both urine and faecal sludge can be used as a nutrient for agriculture. Also there is a project to pelletize the faecal sludge and then use it as a fertilizer. Rainwater harvesting is being encouraged for households to supplement their water requirements. Wastewater recycling for industrial use, street theatre for customer literacy and the correct use of sanitation facilities, a robust community engagement mechanism including customer service agents is some of the innovative ideas being tried out.

Durban is famous for its beaches and it is the clear water and surf which brings tourists in hordes and helps the local economy. It is critical therefore that the waters be kept free from sewage pollution. That the EWS focus is both basic service to people as a human right and managing waters to benefit the economy and the environment is a tribute to its efforts recognized by the Award.

It is time that water utilities in India learn from the eThekwini example and a visit to Durban is therefore a must. That would be water and sanitation wisdom.