What happens after you flush? Young Global Leaders around the world are putting serious thought into this question and coming together to revolutionize urban sanitation in India.
This work is unblocking bottlenecks to proper faecal sludge management and creating designs for a scalable public-private financing model for waste management.
A growing coalition of Young Global Leaders from organizations such as Population Services International, HCL Technologies, Xynteo India, Bank of America, Fullerton Health, Bharat Light & Power, JetSetGo and The Hindu, as well the public sector are investing their time and influence to develop a marketplace for faecal sludge. that includes a sustainable waste management fund that is flexible and self-replenishing, and attracts corporate and foundation-based resources.
Most of the work being done by these Young Global Leaders involves advising on advocacy, media tools and market creation. The Forum of Young Global Leaders has partnered with Population Services International, which is rolling-out waste management facilities in select cities to move this effort forward, monitor progress and evaluate results.
This initiative has attracted significant media attention and generated investment commitments from three companies. This will allow for increased legitimacy, transparency and natural collaboration between the private and public sectors on this complex and critical issue.
India is home to more than 1.3 billion people and keeping such a large population healthy is a significant challenge. Unsafe sanitation practices account for over 20% of all communicable diseases, and 500 children die from diarrhoea-related issues every day. It is estimated that inadequate sanitation jeopardizes 6.4 per cent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The Indian government is seeking to address its sanitation challenge through programmes such as the Swachh Bharat Mission, a national sanitation programme that has installed almost 90 million toilets over five years.
However, many issues arising “after the flush” remain unresolved. India’s cities generate 37 billion litres of untreated sewage every day, but many of the country’s 800 sewage treatment plants only operate at 30% of capacity. Waste that is not collected and transported to the appropriate sites enters open water bodies and fields, which damages both human and environmental health.
Young Global Leaders came together at the YGL Annual Summit 2018 in San Francisco to chart collective action on key global and regional topics of concern. Sanitation and waste management emerged as a key issue that the community wanted to draw attention to and take steps to tackle.
The community then worked with Population Services International for one year to develop a public-private solution. A pilot programme in North-Eastern India resulted in 25% more sludge entering municipal sewage treatment plants in Patna, Bihar. Young Global Leaders are working with businesses and local government to build on this pilot solution and transform waste management across India.
Urban authorities will have to devise new ways to fund their community and public sanitation facilities, but solving the wider challenge requires engagement from multiple stakeholders.
Private tank operators need innovative logistical and financial systems. Rapidly developing technologies that convert faecal sludge into useful resources, such as energy, may also be part of the solution.