I would like to thank the Municipal Administration and Water Supplies Department, State Government of Tamil Nadu, India for inviting me to speak about the current scenario and to give my recommendations for making P.N.Palayam a model town with regard to Sanitation. I am Priscilla, an Environmental Scientist, representing Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, India. I have done my master’s in environmental science in 1996 and completed my Doctoral degree in Environmental Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA in 2000.
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I have been working since 18 years on various community development projects in India and Brunei. I have also been involved in developing the City Development plans and City Sanitation Plans for various cities.
Sanitation is a public health condition which focuses on clean drinking water and adequate treatment and disposal of human excreta and sewage. Preventing human contact with feces is part of sanitation. Human excreta transmit many infectious diseases like cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, polio, cryptosporidiosis, and ascariasis. The environmental implications are high such as drinking water pollution, entry of fecal contaminants in food chain, poor sanitation leads to malnutrition. Gates foundation has taken the initiative in solving this public health issue in various countries such as Bangladesh, Africa, India, etc.,
As India contributes greater percentage on open defecation population, 30% deaths of Indian children under 5 are diarrhea related. India stands 2nd largest number of polio cases in the world. There is 65% lack of sanitation facility in India1. That is 65% of the village population doesn’t have individual house hold toilets. Even if there is an access to public toilets, they are blocked or not maintained properly. Most of the cities do not treat these septage wastes. They are dumped in farm lands before being treated. As there is a strong linkage between sanitation and health. Sanitation situation cannot be attended only by focusing on stopping open defecation and construction of toilets. The Entire sanitation chain (Full Cycle Sanitation) should be focused, which includes the Containments (septage storage tanks), transportation of septage, treatment and Safe Disposal / Reuse of the treated septage.
PN Palayam is considered as a study area or population of interest. The population here is 26,000. This PN Palayam is a Town Panchayat which is situated in Tamil Nadu state of southern India. Tamil Nadu state comprises of 527 town panchayats. This is chosen because the focus on sanitation is beyond open defecation, and here the open defecation rate is comparatively low, and the rate of toilets and septic tanks are high. The general population includes people of all age groups – infants, children, youth and adults. There are schools, colleges, small- and large-scale industries. This situation would help develop a proper regulatory frame work which would address the Full Cycle Sanitation. Once a suitable frame work is developed and piloted for this town, it could be scaled up for the other 527 town panchayats of the state. This could also be a global demonstration site.
As the representative of Gates foundation, I would like to share the findings that we have got from the study carried out in PN Playam. As policies are to be implemented by the government, I would like to present the recommendations to make PN Palaym a model sanitary town in India.
Research study was carried out on the water supply systems, waste disposal, drainage systems and Septage management. The recommendations are:
Based on the study, a pilot treatment facility to treat the grey water and septage needs to be implemented. The treated wastes to be re-used for agriculture. This sustainable sanitation technology would minimize health risks and environmental impacts2 Only when there is a mutually dependent service provided, the sanitation value chain which involves, collection, transportation, treatment and reuse can be fulfilled3
Improper disposal of untreated septage into the environment to be monitored by the local authorities. Such violators will be penalized and their trucks to be ceased from further operations. The best operator who collects and disposes the wastes in the treatment facility will get incentives. As this is the environmentally friendly technology, it is feasible. As the funds for this pilot study are provided by the Gates foundation, there would not be any burden on the local government.
If these recommendations are implemented, within 5 years 100% sanitation will be achieved in this model town, where Open defecation will be 0% and 100% safe conveyance and treatment of septage will be ensured. As these recommendations involve the cooperation of the general public, lot of awareness and behavioral changes need to happen. If there is no support from the public, this pilot study may not be successful.
The key stakeholders are, representatives from local government, public health department, local schools, industries, youth volunteers, welfare associations, NGOs, public representative, women associations, etc. These were highly influential group who have direct communication with the people living in that area and these groups can convince the people to cooperate in this initiative.
Media is also involved in this committee as one of the stakeholders. There has been a capacity building and training process that had happened with the media workers to get them involved in promoting these initiatives to cause public awareness and to seek public cooperation. Media has been kept informed of every move of the process and they are very much aware of the participation of stakeholders and the “Public – Private – Partnership” link in this initiative. This is an initiative for the wellbeing of the public, and the funds are being sponsored. The people are provided with highly safe environment without spending any of their funds. This would lead to appreciation and not criticism.
The recommendations are focused to stop open defecation by providing toilet facilities to the public of PN Palayam, safe collection and transport systems to be taken care of septage truck operators and the implementation of Fecal Sludge Treatment plant, and the end result would be 100 % sanitation and PN Palayam would definitely be a model town in India. Also, the success stories from this town could be replicated in the other 527 towns of the state.
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