According to Nepal’s 2011 census, 30% of the toilets in urban areas are connected to sewer systems while 48% rely on septic tanks. Though vast number of the total population now depend on on-site sanitation, meaning sanitation systems in which excreta and wastewater are collected and stored or treated on the spot they are generated, it is estimated that only 9.3% of sewerage is treated.
According to Pradip Amatya, Environment Engineer at the Lalitpur Metropolitan Office, Lalitpur district has been managing with only a single pilot fecal sludge treatment plant in existence.
The 2011 census recorded Lalitpur Metropolitan City’s population at 284,922 but Amatya says the current residing population of the district is estimated to be more than 1,000,000.
“The central government has not allocated any budget for the metropolitan office to work towards Fecal Sludge Management (FSM). One treatment plant simply cannot treat fecal waste of the entire district spread in 36.12 square kilometers,” he said.
“When it comes to FSM, there is always a tussle between the metropolitan office and central government regarding who should be responsible for the task,” added Amatya.
“In absence of adequate treatment plants and government’s interventions, Lalitpur is grappling with haphazard management of septic waste. As most of the fecal sludge and gray water produced in the district are dumped into the Bagmati as well as other local rivers, such a practice has posed hazard to public health as well as the environment,” said Amatya.
FSM comprises of the process of emptying pits of fecal matter and transporting the sludge to disposal site or reusing it after treatment, as well as enabling the environment needed for this process. Proper management of fecal sludge can result in production of fuel and energy.
Meanwhile, Rudra Prasad Gautam, Information Officer at Lalitpur Metropolitan Office, said that the metropolis treats its fecal sludge before dumping it into the Bagmati River.
“Lalitpur district has only one functional fecal sludge treatment plant located in Lubhu of Mahalaxmi Municipality. Most houses rely on either septic tanks or sewers. In places that do not have access to the treatment facility, we dispose untreated fecal sludge into local rivers,” said Gautam.
He added that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was funding the construction of a new treatment plant in Dhobighat, which is expected to take care of most of the fecal sludge in the city.
Amatya believes that the new treatment plant, once completed, could solve most of the metropolis’ FSM-related woes. He added that private tankers, which collect fecal sludge, dump it into Bagmati during the night time and the metropolitan office also relies mostly on such private services.
Meanwhile, 65% of the total urban household in Nepal depends on on-site sanitation rather than sewers, with a growing trend of using septic tanks. No credible data exists on the frequency of desludging, treatment and/or safe disposal of the faecal sludge, which in a way indicates the policy, service and monitoring gap.
With Nepal government declaring all districts as open defecation free (ODF) zones, the challenge to boost sanitation policies, regulations, and practices remains. Eliminating open defecation is only the first step in ensuring safe management of sanitation services, as outlined in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.
Unregulated disposal of fecal sludge causes water as well as environmental pollution since many villages, cities, and municipalities in Nepal still rely significantly on septic tanks for treating their sewage.
Due to the lack of adequate facilities or regulations for emptying, collecting, transporting, and treating fecal sludge, more than 95% of sewerage ends up in rivers without any form of treatment causing river pollution.
As part of Nepal’s commitment to SDGs, it allocates a negligible budget to WASH every year but there is currently no specific allocation for FSM. Budget allocation for FSM remains feeble with limited resources allocated centrally.
Most interventions in the area of FSM are based on technical and financial assistance from external agencies, including INGOs and development partners.