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Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System, Karnataka
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Subject Area="Inter-sectoral links." Objective="Better sanitation in slums."
Details for Reform Option "Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System, Karnataka"

Background: Access to good sanitation facilities is cause for concern, especially for those living in slums. Shrinking urban spaces makes defecation difficult and unhygienic. Most slum dwellers usually live without proper toilet facilities and it is women who suffer the most, as privacy is hard to come by during daylight hours. Action: Gram Swaraj Samithi (GSS), a local non-government organization (NGO), partnered with Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association (BORDA) with funding from European Commission and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany. The project involved building two sanitation complexes for the peri-urban population of Ullalu Upanagara, on the outskirts of Bangalore. The sanitation complexes were fitted with Decentralised Wastewater Treatment System (Dewats); this made the wastewater suitable for reuse. It was the first community-based sanitation (CBS) project in India that treated wastewater and harvested rainwater for use in toilets, bathrooms and for laundry. The biogas produced by the treatment plant was used for heating water, which was used by the community for hot water baths. The facility is operated by the women's Self Help Group (SHG), which is nurtured by GSS. The amount earned from the two units is INR 17,000 to INR 26,000 per month; it is used for the operation and maintenance of the facility. Surplus amounts are transferred to the SHG’s bank account. The SHG is now registered as an NGO. At the outset, GSS initiated education and awareness programmes on critical issues like health, environmental hygiene and sanitation. Thereafter, following a community needs assessment, it was found the there was willingness to own and run the sanitation project. BORDA undertook a technical feasibility study. Concurrence from the community on the proposed CBS facility was taken and important stakeholders from the community were sent to Dewats units for a hands-on experience. This enhanced the community’s practical understanding of such units and their supplementary benefits. GSS involved the local government (Panchayat) from the very beginning. Community members mobilised contributions from the people of the slum area for the project. They were also instrumental in land acquisition, supply of water and electricity. The project also provided political mileage to the local self-government. In 2002, initiative were taken to propagate the success of Ullalu Upanagara’s Dewats by a consortium consisting of a network of institutions, authorities and organisations concerned with wastewater treatment in Bangalore with the objective to encourage adoption. Results: The project does not have quantitative data to show documented improvement in health status of the people who benefited directly from the project. However, in a place where no sanitation facility existed and people lived in extremely unhygienic conditions, construction of sanitation complexes provided over 700 people with toilets, bathing and laundry facilities. The utilisation of the facility has increased appreciably over the months. In addition, 18 people from the community are now employed to run the sanitation complex.

Cost Infrastructure cost at Ullalu Upanagara was approximately INR 12 lakhs (1.2 million) for one unit. The costs involved are case specific – based on both, social and technical issues like waste water characteristics, cost of construction material, topographical conditions, existing infrastructure, land cost and demands of the beneficiary.
Place Ullalu Upanagara, a peri-urban slum in Bangalore, Karnataka.
Time Frame One year.

Low Cost: The investment and maintenance cost of running eco-friendly sanitation facility are not high and the benefits are many. Environment friendly: Converting sewage to irrigation effluent is efficient waste management. Low Maintenance: Minimum skills are required to run the project. Viable: Income generation and savings through use of treated water and biogas.


Community participation: Taking the consent of the community for setting up, operation and maintenance of the facility, a necessary step taken for the project, at times slowed things down. Legal issues: Acquiring land, agreements between involved parties, agreement for operation and maintenance are time consuming. However, once accomplished, these legal documents ensured sustainability of the project.


Demand and felt need for basic sanitation services (demand-based intervention). Genuine interest of stakeholders. Good working relationship of the NGO with the community. Consent and support of the local panchayat. Government support for provision of land, water and electricity.

Who needs to be consulted

Local NGOs. Technical agency, in this case, BORDA, Consortium for Dewats Dissemination (CDD). Gram Panchayat and Zilla Panchayat. Revenue Department Women’s groups and other Community Based Organisations (CBOs).



Pay–and-Use system ensures income, employment and a sense of ownership. Earnings from pay toilets bathing rooms and sale of water (heated by biogas) are used for the maintenance of the new facility. Financial viability reduces dependence on external or government funds. The system itself is competitive and affordable (minimal maintenance cost) and can be put up with locally available material and expertise; it is also reliable. Community involvement from the very conception of the project ensures that people own the new infrastructure. And once the community gets used to its advantages it makes efforts to make it sustainable.

Chances of Replication

Being replicated by Partner network in many places—East Devadhanam,Tirucherapalli; Mahajan Nagar-Nagpur; H&A Block, KGF-Kolar, Karnataka; many other projects are underway at Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Corporate leaders like India Tobacco Company (ITC) are considering Dewats for wastewater management of their hotels while institutions such as the Aravind Eye Hospital, Madurai, are highly satisfied users since the last two and a half years. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the premier environmental protection authority in India, has recognised Dewats as an effective means of pollution control. In collaboration with Rajiv Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation Pvt. Ltd. (RGRHCL) and Consortium for Dewats Dissemination (CDD) it has integrated a Dewats unit in a low-income housing colony (120 houses) in Bangalore. The Government of Karnataka has instructed all districts to integrate Dewats into all future sanitation projects under the Nirmala Nagara Scheme. The scheme is aimed at improving basic sanitary infrastructure and sanitation in all urban areas with a population of more than 100,000. Foundation for education and innovation in Asia (FEDINA) and BORDA have received an award from the President of India for their ‘innovative work’.


Dissemination activities and exposure visits to this pilot project have formed a base for initiation of many sanitation projects with involvement of Government, civil societies, private parties and beneficiaries. For more on the Dewats BORDA India programme, please refer to the attached annexure.


Submitted By

Dr. Nandini Roy, National Institute of Medical Statistics & Sara Joseph, Research Consultant, ECTA, Bangalore, July, 2006.

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