Valuable Insights from our Trip to India

Our CEO Valentin Post recently visited several cities in India. “The trip provided an opportunity to gain valuable insights into the inner workings of FINISH Mondial India and the initiatives it supports”. Among the many topics on the agenda, we discussed fund mobilisation strategies, faecal sludge management and greywater treatment.

Aligning the development and business agenda

FINISH Mondial India is notably investigating how the development agenda can be better integrated into the business agenda. This integration is occurring through improvements in Corporate Social Responsibility in several WASH and allied areas, as well as in co-composting, Faecal Sludge Management, and health care financing with both existing and prospective partners for expansion into new geographies.

High water table initiative

During the visit to Supaul Bihan, we were able to observe first-hand the impact of flooding in this region and what this means for the provision of sanitation. The typical leach pits, even with elevated modifications do not work well for the houses in the area. Several recommendations were formulated to overcome these challenges:

  • improve the third chamber planted bed,
  • increase sampling and testing with original system and revised systems,
  • reduce the costs of systems – to approximately Rs. 11,000/unit substructures and
  • engage government post this for replication, ideally with MoU in place

Faecal Sludge Management initiatives yield positive results

We also gathered many interesting insights by visiting the faecal sludge management facilities in Odisha and Tamil Nadu. We were notably told about the positive effects in terms of irrigation and healthier crops that had been observed with zero co-comport waste. Different Memorandums of Understanding in Conoor have also recognized the importance of water treatment systems for sustainability. We were also pleased to see so much support from the government. An agreement between faecal sludge management committee and the government was recently signed for the implementation of an intriguing revenue-sharing model. and the India Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) will give a presentation on co-compost acceptance in agriculture. ICAR will also continue to conduct field research, notably on carbon sequestration and potential water reduction effects.

Communities increasingly involved in solid waste management

We also had the opportunity to have a closer look at how solid waste is managed in Urban (Udaipur). Waste segregation is already practiced in various areas we visited and we could observe the positive results at the transfer station. In some of the areas, community members have even started practicing home composting on rooftops (pots and plants). Despite these positive outcomes, some further improvements are necessary. . Communities notably expressed the need for more institutional arrangements to support compost sales and co-compost manufacture. MOU could also allow a larger share to the municipality post process and market establishment. We also discussed landscaping plans to attract more visitors to the site and encourage the sale of compost.

Nature-based solutions for grey water treatment

Our visit to the Lake Rehabilitation, Sembakkam site near Chennai yielded an impressive sight: a nature-based plant with self-cleaning capacity of water bodies. The installation is comprised of grit chambers, screens, a pumping station, and other features. Not only is the system more efficient but is also more cost effective when compared to in the municipality.

However, there are several issues that make replicability challenging, chief among them environmental footprint of the construction itself. The grey water treatment units we visited in Dungarpur city experience some challenges of their own. Both units receive much more water than their designed capacity.

To rectify the situation, the recommendation is, for both Lakes Soneriya and Gaib to not operate the systems during the monsoon season, anymore, to minimize the effects. Furthermore, the inflow of water to the designed capacity during the dry seasons must also be reduced. Plans were also made to expand greywater treatment to “touristic” lakes and to implement beautification measures.

Focus on sanitation in northern India

In Rajasthan, the strategy being pursued is one of FINISH Mondial’s strongest examples of government engagement strengthened by CSR. Tribal villages in Dungarpur district have gone from using open defecation free, basic sanitation systems to safely managed toilets. In line with circular sanitation principles, these new systems reuse the human waste that is collected in the pits. However, there are still some challenges with regards to land use and cultivation which have to be addressed.

Overall this trip was a roaring success, and we were able to gain some interesting insights from the ongoing projects as well as create more relevant strategies for the future.

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