India generates a staggering 1.7 million tonnes of faecal waste a day, according to “Urban Shit”, Down To Earth magazine’s latest cover story on sewage disposal in the country. Based on an analysis done by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the news report shows how India is missing the point when it comes to safe waste management,  most cities have no clue how to convey the waste or treat it. Official figures show that 78 per cent of the sewage generated remains untreated and is disposed of in rivers, groundwater or lakes.

News headlines such as “Half of homes have phones but no toilets,” and the diligent efforts of the government of India and nonprofits to provide toilets to the 48 percent of Indians who don’t have one, suggest that enough toilets will solve India’s sanitation woes. In reality, while toilets are a necessary part of the solution, an arguably bigger yet often overlooked issue is how to contain and treat India’s sewage. Currently, 93 percent of sewage finds its way to ponds, lakes, and rivers without treatment.

1). Untreated sewage is the leading polluter of water sources in India, causing a host of diseases including diarrhea (which kills 350,000 Indian children annually.

2). agricultural contamination, and environmental degradation. The urban poor often live alongside dirty drains and canals in which mosquitoes and germs breed.

India’s largest cities have centralized sewage systems, complete with underground pipes, pumping stations, and treatment plants. However, these systems are expensive to build and to operate, requiring uninterrupted power, skilled operators, and extensive maintenance. As a result, according to India’s Central Pollution Control Board, fewer than half of them work effectively.

3). What’s more, India’s smaller towns cannot afford to build such systems.

Experts at the workshop said that a large quantity of water was being used worldwide in carrying human excreta. This is not the best use of water, the current technology—using water to flush down excreta and carry it away—was not sustainable. The solution, was on-site faecal sludge management using modern septic tanks and other technologies so that the excreta does not contaminate water bodies. Current piped sewerage systems do not treat sewage but merely transport it away. They are toxic and extremely polluting for the rivers and lakes where they are dumped.