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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY According to the WHO/UNICEF 2008 Joint Monitoring Program, urban access to improved sanitation has risen to 57 and 78 percent in South Asia and Southeast Asia, respectively, due in large part to investments in onsite sanitation systems such as septic tanks and pour-flush latrines. However, the management of onsite sanitation remains a neglected component of urban sanitation and wastewater management. Only recently have national governments, cities, and wastewater utilities begun to address the management of septage, or the sludge that accumulates inside septic tanks. Rather, most sanitation programs have focused on toilet installation and sewerage development, viewing onsite sanitation as an informal, temporary form of infrastructure. As a result, septic tanks and latrines in urban areas have become major sources of groundwater and surface water pollution, with significant environmental, public health, and economic impacts. To better understand the status of septage management policy and practice in Asia, Environmental Cooperation-Asia (ECO-Asia), a regional program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), conducted a rapid assessment of septage management in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. This assessment report summarizes the institutional and infrastructure capacity of these countries to manage septage, identifies the common challenges that prevent better service provision, and provides recommendations for program improvements based on good practices across the region. Given the prevailing focus on physical infrastructure in this field, this report focuses principally on the enabling conditions that help cities better manage septage, including private sector participation and stakeholder awareness. To validate the findings of the assessment and to facilitate dialogue among regional stakeholders, ECOAsia and Indah Water Konsortium (IWK), Malaysia’s national sewerage services provider, co-organized a workshop and training in Kuala Lumpur from May 2528, 2009. The Department of Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries (Sandec) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) also collaborated with ECO-Asia in the assessment.

One finding from the assessment is that a key challenge shared by all countries is the limited awareness of policymakers about septage management and the corresponding need for policy setting, funding allocation, and enforcement. At the implementation level, as detailed in the assessment, this lack of awareness translates into a range of common challenges, including weak enforcement of septic tank construction codes; lack of data on the location and condition of septic tanks; infrastructure development without corresponding adoption of local policies and regulations, capacity building programs, or public promotion initiatives; limited local capacity to design, construct, and operate collection and treatment infrastructure; and tariff structures that do not promote cost recovery, compliance with septage management regulations, or entrepreneurship. In addition, while private operators provide septage collection and disposal services in most countries in the region, few local governments or utilities regulate their activities, or leverage their capabilities to expand local scheduled desludging services. Despite gaps in national policymaking and weak septage management programs, however, the assessment identified good practices in septage management in every country related to legal and institutional frameworks, infrastructure development, private sector involvement, capacity building, and services promotion. While Malaysia is the clear leader of the target countries examined, every country has developed some good practices that deserve consideration. Some countries, especially India, the Philippines, and Vietnam, are increasingly recognizing the need to invest in septage management as a complement to sewerage development. The report also offers a series of recommendations based on the lessons learned and good practices identified through the country assessments. Some of the key recommendations based on the assessment findings are: Raise Awareness of Both Policymakers and Septic Tank Users. Building stakeholder awareness is critical for creating effective new policies and programs, and



for ensuring public and financial support for initiatives. Efforts should focus on raising policymaker awareness of the direct health, environmental, and economic benefits of improved septage management. Responsible agencies and organization should also implement communitylevel awareness initiatives that highlight the benefits of more frequent desludging to ensure acceptance of new programs and costs. Establish and Enforce Clear National and Local Policies. Clear legal and regulatory requirements for scheduled desludging, and septage collection and treatment provide the foundation for comprehensive septage management programs. Countries should work to establish appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks and also create regulatory regimes that ensure effective enforcement. Strengthen the Capacity of Implementing Agencies and Utilities. Inadequate human and institutional capacity at the local level is a major barrier to constructing and maintaining infrastructure, and regulating programs. National and local governments should develop capacity building initiatives that provide technical support and training for national and local officials, and both public and private operators. Focus areas should include technical, institutional, planning, social and financial aspects. Enable Private Service Providers in Scale Up Scheduled Desludging. At present, private operators are major providers of septage management services in most countries in the region. By creating new incentive schemes and regulatory programs, local governments can better leverage the private sector to scale up


scheduled desludging, while minimizing infrastructure requirements and creating business opportunities. Increase Funding and Reform Tariff Structures. To build or rehabilitate infrastructure, local governments and utilities must have access to national funding and low-interest loans, and/or have the authority to increase septage or wastewater tariffs. Where there are national caps on desludging tariffs, rates should be increased to cover the cost of septage collection, treatment, and disposal. Where possible, billing and collection for septage management should be combined with that of water services, in order to break customer payments into installments, reduce unregulated private desludging activity, and increase willingness to pay. In working to develop new policies and practices, as well as strengthen capacity, wastewater operators and cities should share experiences and information though partnerships, networking, and knowledge sharing. One proven approach for cooperation are water operator partnerships (WOPs), which enable the direct transfer of technical assistance through peer-to-peer exchange. In particular, these partnerships link “mentor” utilities that have developed good practices with “recipient” utilities that are interested in technical assistance. WOPs leverage mentor interests in corporate social responsibility, staff training, or understanding of other countries with recipient interest in adopting new policies or practices. WaterLinks, a regional network that facilitates WOPs with the support of the Asian Development Bank, International Water Association and United States Agency for International Development, has implemented dozens of successful WOPs (