3rd International Fecal Sludge Management Conference (FSM3) 18 – 22 January, Hanoi, Vietnam

k-hub NewsFSM3 was organized by the World Smart Capital Initiative, a non-profit organization that provides ‘The Innovation of Cities’, a platform on social, technical and sustainable urban innovation. The conference saw participation from 160 speakers spread over 110 countries and a gathering of more than five hundred persons from all stakeholders – Governments, utilities, bi-lateral and multilateral funding organizations, experts, researchers, academia, NGOs, business persons, media etc. One team member from each of the national centres of the K-Hub participated in this conference: Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Ali from ITN-BUET Bangladesh, Dr. Puswewala, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, Ms. Paramita Datta Dey, National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi and Mr. Iswar Amatya, Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

FSM3 was an important event for dissemination of current practices, current problems and new ideas and innovations in the area of fecal sludge management and sanitation in the world. The problems were basically shown to exist in the developing countries, and some recently developed countries. The need of respective governments to make fecal sludge management as one of their policy priorities was highlighted. So far, governments have taken up water supply projects with great enthusiasm, and sludge or septage management had been given a very lower significance in almost all such projects. The ability or capacity of people in the affected countries and its cities to pay for fecal sludge management should be kept in focus when solutions are implemented. FSM3 emphasized that possibilities to use sludge as a resource and substantiated it with examples. The need to get private sector participation, such as through public-private partnerships, as well as the caution to not regulate out the informal sector currently operating in the area of fecal sludge management, were also shown through presentations and discussions. Different social problems involved with fecal sludge management were also brought to light and deliberated upon. Many innovative ideas resulting from focused research on the area were shown, ranging from new toilet designs to new ways of disposing the fecal sludge. Much work on how fecal sludge affects the world’s environment, in the form of affecting the soil, or ground-water, and therefore the health of the people, was disseminated.

Lesson Learned and relevance to planned K-Hub Activities

  1. 2FSM is a major problem in almost all countries where on-site sanitation system predominates, and lack of proper FSM is threatening sustainability of sanitation services in all these countries. Many countries in Asia, Africa and South America (latter to a lesser degree) face problems in fecal sludge management and disposal. These problems in urban areas are mainly the result of unplanned approaches that had been adopted as the cities grew in population.

  1. The problems caused by fecal sludge will aggravate if governments at national level and local level do not pick up the warning now, and commence in developing and implementing solutions. Solutions are mostly country or state specific. There is a huge interest among government, academia, and sanitation professionals in these countries to address FSM on an urgent basis through learning from each other. Selection of FSM as a major focus of K-Hub activities seems appropriate and timely.

  1. Most applications of FSM (including some successful ones) are at relatively small scale (e.g., community level). However, there is no real example of successful city-wide application of FSM anywhere. Interactions among countries (especially among regional countries with similar characteristics) regarding FSM would be very useful in developing appropriate models/best practices for FSM at scale. K-Hub could play a significant role in sharing knowledge/information on FSM, not only among its members, but also with other organizations/ forums dealing with FSM. In this regard utilization of the SUSANA forum (as discussed among K-Hub partners, ADB and SUSANA during the Conference) seems very promising.

  1. For successful implementation of FSM, “institutional clarity” (i.e., clear assignment of responsibilities among FSM stakeholders in a city/town) is a pre-requisite. Thus, development of “regulatory framework for FSM in Bangladesh” by ITN-BUET (as part of its K-Hub activities) would be a important step forward for successful implementation of FSM in Bangladesh. Similarly in India, the Knowledge Product on innovative sanitation followed by a policy brief will help highlight the need for addressing the entire value chain of sanitation from capture to reuse and not focus only on constructing toilets.

  1. Governments alone cannot solve the problem of FSM, as the full acceptance and participation of the people is needed. Social issues involved with the problem needs to be aptly negotiated.

  1. Technologies for treatment of fecal sludge including resource recovery (a vital and essential step in fecal sludge management chain) are evolving, and stakeholders need to keep an open mind regarding choice of technologies. At the same time, new sanitation technologies are being developed that significantly reduce accumulation of fecal sludge. Research at local level (i.e., within each country) is essential for developing treatment and sanitation technologies that are most appropriate under local context. Under K-Hub activities, there are opportunities (e.g., during consultations, workshops) to highlight these issues in an effort to promote research on fecal sludge treatment and innovative sanitation technologies.

  1. Excellent resources (e.g., individuals/experts, universities/organizations, forums) are available that could be utilized to learn/share/debate about different aspects of FSM. Under K-Hub activities, efforts should be made to establish network/communication with these resources in an effort to learn from each other. One of them is the SuSanA forum.

  1. Transformational changes with regard to FSM, therefore would require political will, successful planning and access to innovations. The K-Hub through it knowledge products and policy briefs on sanitation can help in this by connecting and plugging into existing networks and thus influence political will.

  1. Some of the tools adopted in the workshop on ‘role play in a fecalopolis’ was interesting and helped understand how layers of decision making is involved in FSM.

  1. 3As fecal sludge management is an issue with many countries in the K-Hub, the discussions at the FSM3 can be taken in perspective. Solutions that it promotes should be developed with government acceptance and backing, and should be conveyed to the people in a positive manner. The solutions will be country or state-dependent, due to the social, geographical, climatic and infrastructural variations.