Published on The Water Blog

A tale of two cities: how cities can improve fecal sludge management

This page in:
Photo credit: World Bank

In previous blogs on Fecal Sludge Management (FSM), we outlined the lack of appropriate attention given to FSM as a formal urban sanitation solution and we presented new tools for diagnosing fecal sludge challenges. In this blog, we provide illustrations from Indonesia and Mozambique of the challenges and opportunities of using FSM.

Balikpapan, Indonesia

Balikpapan is a rapidly growing city of 650,000 people in Indonesia. Back in 2013, a key sanitation challenge was the lack of clarity around institutional roles and responsibilities, particularly for FSM services. The City Cleanliness, Housing and Parks Agency focused on solid waste and managed a septage treatment plant, but played no role in the emptying and transportation of fecal sludge. The water utility managed the existing sewerage system, although it had few connections. It was unclear who, if anyone, supervised or issued permits for on-site fecal sanitation systems, and this was exacerbated by the lack of available standards, guidelines and norms for the construction and servicing of such systems.

Fecal Waste Flow Diagram for Balikpapan

The fecal waste flow diagram for Balikpapan showed that, although 90% of households used on-site sanitation facilities, arrangements for FSM were inadequate. Only about 40% of on-site facilities had ever been emptied, and there was limited demand for emptying services. When fecal sludge was removed, it was often dumped indiscriminately, and little of it arrived at the septage treatment plant. The low demand for emptying was further decreased by a lack of regulation and enforcement, by soakage to the ground from the many latrines which discharge into partly lined soak-pits, and by the 10% of latrines which overflow directly into drains or open water bodies.

In mid-2014, using some of the new FSM tools presented in this series of blogs, Balikpapan city officials had constructive discussions about “how do we solve these FSM issues?” and “what are the priorities to be addressed?”. The priorities subsequently identified included:

  • Strengthening institutional roles, sanitation policies and regulations;
  • Establishing and implementing city-wide plans and realistic budgets to improve FSM services;
  • Incentivizing the private sector to discharge sludge at the treatment plant;
  • Improving technical standards for on-site facilities; and
  • Developing affordable emptying services for dense low-income housing with limited access.
As a result of this exercise, the City Planning Agency and the Mayor mandated the Water Utility to take responsibility for FSM and to ensure that all septage collected by the private sector arrived at the treatment facility. Policy, regulatory and legislative improvements for FSM services are underway  and the city legislature is formulating sanitary legislation focusing on FSM tariffs and non-networked sanitation services. A new City Sanitation Plan will include non-networked services, private sector emptying, and extending the sewerage system. Budget allocations – which were previously poorly coordinated – will be in line with the new institutional arrangements as translated into law, and responsibilities for asset ownership of the treatment works will be transferred to the utility. The water utility is piloting regular desludging services with private sector operators, while also improving record-keeping and control of the existing ‘on request’ desludging services by utilizing digital technology to ensure that all fecal waste is discharged at the sludge treatment facility. Read the full case study on Balikpapan.

Maputo, Mozambique
Fecal Waste Flow Diagram for Maputo
Maputo is the capital city of Mozambique, with a population of around 1.2 million, less than a quarter of whom live in the central, fully urbanized zone, and less than 10% of whom have a sewer connection. The fecal waste flow diagram shows that less than half of the fecal waste produced in the city is safely managed, and that by far the biggest failure of services is the unsafe emptying and disposal of fecal sludge from pit latrines and septic tanks. This problem is particularly acute in the high density unplanned areas surrounding the city center, where there is limited access for vacuum tankers, and most emptying is performed manually and unhygienically by informal operators who bury the fecal sludge in back yards or dump it into the stormwater drainage system.

In response to these challenges, Maputo Municipal Council (MMC) decided to pilot improved FSM services in the Municipal District of Nhlamankulu, known for having the most severe sanitation problems in the city, and did so at a scale sufficient to provide the basis for a subsequent city-wide roll-out of tested solutions. MMC worked with three principal partners: the World Bank; the international NGO, WSUP; and the local association of micro-enterprises, which provide primary solid waste collection services in peri-urban Maputo, and eight of which were selected to branch out into the provision of FSM services.

Improved FSM services were developed, based on simple equipment that could be carried through the narrow alleyways, delivering the fecal sludge to a tanker-trailer or to a plastic water tank mounted on a light truck. After two years, seven viable FSM businesses are now operational, well accepted and regularly used by local residents 

In parallel with developing these new services, MMC has revised its municipal sanitation byelaw so that, for the first time, it allows for and regulates FSM service provision in peri-urban areas, based on the lessons learnt from this pilot. The byelaw creates incentives for the private sector to expand services in peri-urban areas, and for residents to be more vigilant in protecting their health and the environment. It also allows for MMC to develop service models and payment mechanisms to facilitate the access of poor households to FSM services. All of the fruits of these recent developments are yet to be seen, but improvements have already been demonstrated. Read the full case study on Maputo.

Is your city doing well in fecal waste management? Can other cities learn from it?  Please share your experiences by leaving comments below.

Related links:


Peter Hawkins

Senior Water & Sanitation Specialist

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000