Birendranagar municipality in the Surkhet district of Western Nepal’s Karnali province is now part of the growing list of cities with a Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant (FSTP). Built under SNV’s WASH SDG programme, the FSTP offers safe treatment and disposal of human excreta services to the city’s 116,000 residents. The Birendranagar FSTP is the fifth in Nepal and the first to be built within the municipality.
During the FSTP handover ceremony to the municipality, Dev Kumar Subedi, Mayor of Birendranagar, said ‘The work that SNV initiated is really appreciated. Development work should not only be a process of “give and take.” The municipality, as the people’s representative, should be responsible to take this further. Even if there is a transitional change in the municipality (as new representatives come in), this initiative should be taken as an opportunity for the longer term operation and sustainability of the FSTP.’
The FSTP construction was completed at a cost of NPR 19.76 million (US$ 163,810). It has a design capacity of 50 m3 of faecal sludge per day and a lifespan of 15 years. It is equipped with treatment elements (e.g., separating solids and liquids, treatment and reuse of products), a screening unit, vertical flow constructed wetland, compost curing houses, and composting units.
The FSTP began servicing the city on 30 September 2021. Alongside ongoing emptying operations, phased service and infrastructure upgrades are already underway. Operations and maintenance, in addition to the planned upgrades, will be financed by the municipality’s budget.
During the second phase, an office, a toilet, and a guard house will be constructed. A segregation unit and additional compost curing houses and units will be added. For the third and final phases, sanitary landfills, additional constructed wetlands and composting curing houses will be built.
(L) Sita Gautam during an SNV FSTP operations and maintenance training workshop
At its current capacity, the FSTP is already creating business opportunities for private pit emptying truck operators. To date, four emptying operators had been activated, charging a septic tank emptying fee of NPR 6,000 (US$ 60) per visit. ‘It’s an honour to be part of this business. The business of managing faecal sludge is really a serious business. To manage faecal sludge for a safer environment is the need of the present. This will help to reduce contamination, and will help to grow our business in a more sustainable way,’ exclaimed Sita Gautam, private FSM service provider in Birendranagar.
Enablers of robust services
‘The day-to-day reality in both faecal sludge and wastewater treatment plants is less clean and rosy. The learning curve is often much steeper and creating the enabling conditions requires a lot of hard work.’ – Antoinette Kome, Global Sector Head of WASH in SNV in her Foreword in the publication, Treatment technologies in practice: On-the-ground experiences of faecal sludge and wastewater treatment
The work on the FSTP in Birendranagar started in 2019, along with SNV’s involvement in the preparation of the city’s Sanitation Plan. Following an informed choice process, stakeholders selected a low-cost, non-mechanised FSTP to service the city’s sanitation needs. Shortly after, the municipality acquired five hectares of land from the federal government.
In 2019, SNV contributed to the development of the FSTP’s integrated process site plan. The plan covered, among others, solid waste management and a signed project agreement on the partners’ roles and responsibilities as illustrated below.
SNV (i) developed an operations manual for the FSTP’s management; (ii) trained FSTP staff on the upkeep and operations of the treatment plant, and (iii) developed business models to ensure the financial viability of collection, conveyance, treatment and reuse, or the sale of by-products. Tipping fees were worked out in consultation with the municipal officials.
The municipality (i) led in community awareness raising and outreach programmes, (ii) created business opportunities for pit-emptying truck operators, (iii) secured additional budgets to complete the FSTP, and (iv) secured budget for the repair and maintenance of the access road to the FSTP.
FSTP operators servicing households in Birendranagar Surkhet
FSTP operators in the Birendranagar FSTP
Existing by-laws for faecal sludge management in the municipality made all these possible, as well as government commitment to enforce these. Clearly, the FSTP and the enabling conditions from which it has emerged will ensure that Birendranagar residents gain greater access to the development benefits of a safer and healthier environment.
‘With the technical and financial support of SNV in Nepal, the FSTP has been constructed and is in operation now. The FSTP will fulfil the vision set by the municipality to create a “Clean, Green and Healthy City.” I would like to thank SNV in Nepal for the technical designs and supporting the municipality in FSM.’ - Prakash Poudel, Senior Social Development Officer, Birendranagar Municipality.
Written by Sunetra Lala, with inputs from Raju Shrestha, Parwati Dangal and Suraj Rajbhandhari
 The manual is the go-to resource for capacity building of technical FSTP staff. It covers the procedures and processes of safely emptying septic tanks in Birendranagar, transporting faecal sludge, treating it at the FSTP and finally, disposing the by-products.
 As part of the O&M training, participants gain the knowledge and skills to maintain records, monitor the proper functioning of FSTP’s components, use of protective personal equipment (PPE), and safely empty pits, transport faecal sludge and dispose the by-products.
For more information, please contact Sunetra Lala, WASH Sector Leader - SNV in Nepal, or Raju Shrestha, WASH Advisor - SNV in Nepal.