[op-ed snap] Business Of Cleanliness

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Swachh Bharat Mission

Mains level: Examine India’s waste management crisis and suggest solutions



  1. The Swachh Bharat Mission plans to achieve safe sanitation for all by 2019
  2. There is also a well-defined process, for the different phases of the mission, across the sanitation value chain — build, use, maintain and treat (BUMT)
  3. So a national policy is in place; cities, state governments must operationalise it.

Waste Management problem

  1. Nationally, we generate 7 million tonnes of fecal waste every day but there no systems in place to safely dispose this waste
  2. It bears disease-carrying bacteria and pathogens posing a serious threat to safe and healthy living.
  3. The truck operators can be monitored through GPS tracking process in order to ensure that they dump the waste at treatment plants/pre-determined sites.

Solution – Fecal sludge management system (FSM)

  1. It involves collecting, transporting and treating fecal sludge and septage from pit latrines, septic tanks or other onsite sanitation systems.
  2. This waste is then treated at septage treatment plants.
  3. The FSM ecosystem requires its stakeholders to collaborate closely.
    1. Citizens need to be aware about the importance of a regular schedule for desludging septic tanks.
    2. They must also be ready to pay part of the cost of running FS treatment plants through service charges.
  4. Sanitation workers are key to an effective FSM system. But with no proper disposal system or safety regulations in place, they face serious health hazards.


  1. The sludge is nutrient-rich. After treatment, it can be given to farmers for use as organic compost.
  2. It can even be treated and used for biogas, or to manufacture fuel pellets or ethanol.
  3. Once pathogens and bacteria are removed, the water can be used for irrigation, construction, by industry in cooling plants etc
  4. With appropriate training, sanitation workers can be empowered to own and run FSM businesses — much like the producer cooperatives of the agriculture sector.