Business models for fecal sludge management in India

Globally, 50% of the population relies on on-site sanitation systems (OSS) such as septic tanks and pit latrines and is, hence, in need of Fecal Sludge Management (FSM) solutions. India is a classic example, given that its government built more than 100 million toilets with the majority relying on OSS. With 400 fecal sludge treatment plants (FSTPs) in various stages of planning, procurement and construction, this report comes at an opportune time to present findings on FSM business models already implemented across India. Interviews were conducted with a total of 105 Emptying and Transport (E&T) operators in 72 towns and cities across 16 states in India, 22 representatives from municipalities that own emptying vehicles, 18 FSTP operators and more than 30 institutions. In addition, procurement tenders for E&T and FSTPs in 13 states were analyzed. In total, 18 business models were identified, several with energy or nutrient recovery components. The analysis of E&T operators revealed clear differences that steer a business towards success or failure. The majority of operators still dispose fecal sludge in an unsafe manner, due to the lack of official disposal or treatment sites. In comparison to sewer networks, the capital and operating costs (per capita) of FSTPs were significantly lower. The report provides evidence-based discussions on policies and recommendations for scaling and sustaining FSM.