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11 Apr 2017 | Blog

Waist-High In Wastewater

Nuvodita Singh

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Photo Credit: Eklavya Prasad, MEGH PYNE ABHIYAN

A colleague and I were discussing the theme for this year’s World Water Day – Wastewater. Immediately my mind conjured images of industries and factories churning out chemical laden waste, of urban sewage systems, and of frothy rivers as a result. The common themes running through all these images are- ‘Structure’, ‘Organization’, and ‘Linear Systems’.

These systems are designed to take wastewater away for disposal from its original source of production so that the order of mundane operations can be maintained, notwithstanding the occasional spanner in the works. A useful response to the ill effects of these operations is the implementation of infrastructure such as wastewater treatment plants that essentially create ‘feedback loops’ in an otherwise linear system and help further the cause of the ‘circular economy’. This is easy to visualize for an urban setting where the ‘building blocks’ such as procurement of land, labour, and resources are already in place, or at least available at hand. It is also a very sustainable pathway for urban development.

But what of communities far removed from these cityscapes? What of rural settings that might be relatively disorganized, or informal settlements marked by the absence of those ‘building blocks’, or any structural sewage or waste disposal system? Let us look at ‘Exhibit A’, Naya Tola Bishambharpur (NTB), a small village in the floodplains of Bihar’s West Champaran district.

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