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  • Writer's pictureDean Clark

The Effects of Open Sewage Systems On India's Population

Due to a rapidly urbanized and expanding population, India’s sanitation, especially sewage, has become an increasing problem. A lack of bathrooms has brought about open defecation in some areas, while increased sewage treatment and disposal methods have been proven to lower diarrheal diseases by up to 60%. These illnesses, spread by water, are isolated from hygiene-based changes or promotion, but can still be prevented by better hygiene practices.

Poorer, slum areas are infamous for not having open sewage of any type, but also for lacking clean, running water. In Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, 86 of 124 towns did not have either of these practices, and those that do are more likely than not to have contaminated water. Water treatment is essential to the health of citizens, and switching to semi-centralized supply and treatment systems is more effective than centralized ones.

Another factor to keep in mind is healthcare, in the event of someone getting sick because of these illnesses. 12 percent of the population has some form of healthcare, meaning treatment for the infected is unlikely, also because of needing to continue work to pay for necessities. Open sewage systems lead to these complications, but a lack of hospitals or medical attention when needed exacerbates the issue to gradually more people.

Going back to open defecation,12 percent of urban population do so, as there is simply not enough access to modern plumbing or other systems to dispose of this waste, resulting in unclean drinking water. 93 percent of sewage makes its way to some body of water, without ever being treated. While there is some access to systems such as underground pipes, pumping stations, and treatment plants, they are too costly and laborious to build and maintain.

Luckily, some organizations have stepped in to fix this problem. The Consortium for Decentralized Wastewater Treatment System Dissemination Society (CDD) and their Decentralized Wastewater Treatment System (DEWATS) have adapted to situations of rural communities to work with unreliable power. Smaller, less expensive systems based on natural bacteria and plants, but also reduces the use of natural freshwater greatly. In 13 different Indian states, even being implemented in Nepal and Afghanistan, CDD has made a large impact in rural areas.

Additionally, the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), started in 2014 to free the country from open defecation. This was created and funded by the Indian prime minister of the time, and had two primary objectives: to build more toilets in Indian states, as well as build public sewage systems. The process of containment, removal, transport, treatment, and disposal of waste is used by this government-run program to tackle this goal, creating 19 times as many public toilets in Patna in 2017-18 compared to 2014.

There exists privately-owned with the sole purpose of making sewage systems, but are usually far too expensive for individuals or even small towns to afford, meaning that they do not see much use. Also, many have said that the public mentality of public defecation and sewage treatment needs to change, but can only be done so if given the ability to change their habits and old ways.

To conclude, much has been done on open sewage, treating pollution, and the general water situation in India. Government programs, nonprofits coming in, education and trying to change opinions on public defecation have all tried to fix the situation. It will take some time and money, but given the current practices put in place, India will eventually fix the situation and have access to clean water for all.

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