The urban areas in the country produce over 1,20,000 tons of faecal sludge daily. According to the data, only 33 per cent of houses are connected to sewer systems, and around 38 per cent regularly use septic tanks. India has made consistent efforts to build toilets, but the management and process part of it remains blurred.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), over 70 per cent of the sewage generated from urban India is not treated or managed correctly. This is dumped indiscriminately in empty spaces, water bodies, and agricultural lands, posing a severe health threat to the ecosystem.
Adequate services and facilities for the collection, transportation, disposal, and treatment of faecal sludge do not exist in significant parts of the state in India. Private operators often use manual and illegal methods where they may even dump faecal sludge in waterways, drains, and on land, posing a severe health threat.
Yet it’s an issue that concerns sanitation experts, urban planners, governments, and public health specialists worldwide, particularly in India, as 60 per cent of urban parts are not connected to modern sewage systems and relies upon leaching pits and septic tanks. This makes faecal sludge management (FSM) a pressing but hidden public health issue.
A proper and monitored FSM is an adaptable, convenient, and inexpensive method of complementing centralised sewerage networks while helping to protect the environment and health.
‘Life Navrangi’ A Never Before Kind ‘Drama’
In an effort to spread awareness and take action on the prevalent issue like FSM, The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Media Action has brought its #FlushKeBaad campaign under Navrangi Re! Television drama series. The initiative has been taken to increase civic awareness of the correct disposal of human waste.
The campaign is conceptualised by Global Creative Director of BBC Media Action, Radharani Mitra has received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The second season of the Television drama ‘Navrangi Re!’ has been launched by the title of ‘Life Navrangi’, a seven-episode web drama based in India that aims to mainstream the issue of faecal sludge and septage management (FSSM).
The program stars actors like Aamir Ali and Krishna Mukherjee and veteran actors like Dolly Mattoo, Swaroop Ghosh, and Tiku Talsania. It was released on YouTube on May 19, 2022, with a new episode dropping every Thursday.
Is Drama Effective For Such Issue?
In a country like India, which has a rich oral history and a massive television and film industry, everyone likes a good story. At the same time, a drama produced under a small banner might have lesser reach and scaling. In contrast, when it comes from a national broadcaster, the scale and reach become vast, and the message might force a positive social impact.
The television drama Navrangi Re! and web-drama Life Navrangi are made up of several communication theories and behavioural insights of the masses that make them more effective and appealing.
According to several pieces of research conducted worldwide, the crafted dramas are known as edutainment which is meant for development. But it’s not only limited to educating, entertaining, and informing, but it also pushes discussion, challenges social practices, and changes behaviours.
The Global Creative Director of BBC Media Action, Radharani Mitra, while talking to The Logical Indian, said, “Majority of the population don’t ever think about what happens after we flush. Most places in India are not connected to the modern sewage system. People in metro cities sit on a sewer-based system, but there is no sewer system in Tier-two and Tier-three towns. To solve this issue, people make on-site leaching pits and septic tanks.“
Mechanisms like operating a septic tank, maintaining it, and then desludging it are not adequately monitored. Many a time, the process of desludging is carried out manually and dumped in an open space which is a threat to the health system as it contaminates the soil and water, she added.
In 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission- Clean India Mission was launched, and since then, the country has made consistent efforts toward making toilets and eradicating open defecation. But FSSM- or what happens after flushing, how is it contained, and when and where to empty the septic tank- was not given much importance or centre of focus, which is the need of the hour to lead a healthy life in a contamination-free ecosystem.