In Bangladesh there is almost universal access to a basic toilet, but the poo this generates is causing huge problems. Polluting the environment, and risking the health and dignity of those employed to clean it up.
- With no local authority waste disposal system in place, it is hard to enforce correct procedures for removing waste.
- It also means there is a lack of understanding around where your waste should go, and what happens to it after you flush – no one knows what to do with the poo.
- The contents of septic tanks are emptied by bare hand, with no protection and often dumped into local rivers and onto wasteland, causing serious environmental hazards.
- Pit-emptiers, known as Sweepers, are forced to work in dangerous conditions. Handling toxic substances without access to protective clothing. In 2015, 31 workers died.
- Jobs are irregular and wages are low as there is no set rate for freelance pit and tank emptying services.
- Sweepers often find themselves and their families excluded from society due to the nature of their work.
“Some places we work in provide no water to clean ourselves. We are asked to go to the river or stream to get ourselves cleaned. The shops don’t provide us water as well. They don’t want to serve us tea.
Idris Mollah, Faridpur, Bangladesh
The Ingenious Solution
In Faridpur, the key to successfully revolutionising the waste management in the city was to change attitudes, and make both the authorities and the community more accountable for cleaning up the waste. So that’s what we did, and created a new, organic fertiliser in the process.
- A city-wide campaign using competitions, rallies, debates and even a TV show informed residents of the waste problem and worked to change attitudes towards pit-emptiers.
- Opening a new faecal sludge treatment plant has the capacity to process 24 m3 per day.
- Working with pit-emptiers to develop new de-sludging equipment including hand pumps and vacutag trucks to clear the tanks without the workers having to touch the untreated waste. The trucks come in compact sizes to make sure they are suitable for the narrow streets of the city.
- We helped the sweepers to set up as a formal business. Increasing their planning capabilities, health and safety at work and increasing their incomes. This more formal organisation is helping increase their status within society and opening direct communication with the Mayor of the city.
- A micro-savings programme has been introduced for their members, which has allowed them to purchase land for a permanent premises.
- Representatives of the municipal authority have taken an oath to commit themselves to responsibility for the programme.
- Dried sludge is now processed into cheap organic compost that’s sold to local farmers.
- This model has also been recommended to the national faecal waste management framework to begin scaling up