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An interesting news report in The Hindu on a Kenyan effort to manage human waste, “Turning Human Waste into Clean Energy“, got me down recent memory lane.

Two years back, my team had helped out the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in their efforts on finding solutions to fecal waste in India. Putting jargons aside, the Foundation wanted to know how to sustainable manage human waste that is deposited in the open. If you thought it was not such a big issue, this news item might make you change your mind – 77% of Bihar Population Defecate in the open. Three out of four in Bihar deposit their waste in the open.

The Kenyan experiment is interesting – bio-toilets that collect human waste deposited by millions from Nairobi’s slums, and convert it into biogas. The biogas in turn can be sold to the slum dwellers as a heating gas.

The Bill Gates Foundation was funding a similar solution in India, and last I heard from them, they were considering IIT Delhi, among others for this.

The efforts required to manage such human waste are indeed complex.

Many plans laid by previous governments, and marketed better by the Modi government, ignore these complexities. Broom wielding politicians and announcements of 1000s of crores alone are not enough. I do hope that central and state governments recognise the challenges that are a complex intersection of poverty, urban development, infrastructure and technology before laying a framework for the Swacha Bharat, at least in the context of human waste management.