“Very often when we talk about development, we imagine big highways, towering skyscrapers, and/or other mega projects – while all that is important, what we often tend to do is forget the necessity of other important activities for sustainable development such as education, sanitation, and public health. In Nepal too, most of our budget is dedicated towards mega infrastructure projects. Sadly, when we do so, other important issues such as management of Fecal Sludge Management is ignored,” Parvati Subba, Hygiene Behaviour Change Coalition (HBCC) Officer based in Siraha District tells us.

Golbazar Municipality in Siraha District is a newly formed municipality. Like many other municipalities, it joined the national race to declare itself an Open Defecation Free (ODF) municipality – however, the reality, like several other municipalities is otherwise.

A recent study has stated that up to 30% of Golbazar’s population is still defecating in the open. Several cultural and economic factors contribute to the statistic – such as rooted cultural beliefs that one should not defecate inside their homes, lack of inclusion of minority communities without land space to build toilets, and lack of funds to build a toilet.

While the municipality works towards lessening the gap, it is also faced with another challenge – lack of dedicated funds towards effective management of fecal waste. In Golbazar, management of fecal waste via a sewerage network is a distant dream.

Meanwhile, they have been managing with septic tanks. According to Devnath Sah, Mayor of Golbazar Municipality, they have arranged a septic tank disposal truck and provide diesel to the vehicles. The municipality also charges Rs. 1500 per trip made by the septage truck to dispose fecal waste – however, that revenue is not enough to sustain associated costs.

Devnath Sah, Mayor, Golbazar (Image: Nishant Gurung/Aawaaj News)

Like many other municipalities, Golbazar does not have dedicated funds for management of fecal waste and have to carve out whatever budget remains after allocating funds for cleanliness and sanitation.

According to Sunil Yadav of Golbazar Municipality, who is also the Focal Person of Golbazar Municipality’s Sanitation, there are currently 14 sweepers/sanitation workers, 5 drivers (three tractors, one tipper, and one septic tank) who are responsible for ensuring the municipality’s cleanliness – including managing septic waste.

Their salaries are drawn from the municipality’s budget towards ensuring cleanliness which is a mere one million rupees. After drawing administrative and operative costs, there isn’t much left for effective fecal waste management.

The municipality is in dire need for a fecal waste treatment plant, and an increased budget to manage septage. Currently the collected septage is being disposed in an open space far away from the city’s residential area. That however is not safe, as possibilities of contamination threaten public health. Plans to build a treatment plant is being drawn up by development partners, and for its part, Golbazar has committed to provide the required land.

A fecal sludge treatment plant in Golbazar Municipality will not only help local residents improve their sanitation behavior but will also further aid the total and realistic ODF status of the municipality.

Sunil Yadav cites an example:

“Currently, residents are being charged Rs. 1500 for disposing their fecal waste. But once the treatment plant is made, the demand for fecal waste, which is the raw material of the treatment plant, will rise. Instead of paying Rs. 1500, residents could be giving away their fecal waste for free, or even may charge a small amount. This would encourage more people to build toilets, and pave the municipality’s way towards prosperity.”

Sunil Yadav, Administration Officer at Golbazar Municipality (Image: Nishant Gurung/Aawaaj News)

Furthermore, the municipality is also confident that the fecal waste of Golbazar Municipality will not be enough for the treatment plant to operate at full capacity. “We can then start treating the fecal waste of surrounding municipalities such Dhangadhi Municipality, Lahan Municipality, or Mirchaiya Municipality,” Mayor Sah tells us, expressing great confidence in their vision for a prosperous Golbazar.

Dedicated funds towards fecal waste management sounds like a good investment option – not only for Golbazar municipality, but for other municipalities in Nepal too.

Bhola Yadav, a resident of Golbazar (Image: Nishant Gurung/Aawaaj News)

Residents such as Bhola Yadav could benefit from the treatment plant – they could save the Rs. 1500 which they spend on disposing their fecal waste.