Shit can be lu­cra­tive

Ben­galuru farm­ers have re­vived the prac­tice of us­ing hu­man exc­reta as ma­nure. This has cre­ated an in­for­mal econ­omy that is ben­e­fit­ing many


Farm­ers in Ben­galuru are us­ing hu­man exc­reta as hu­man ma­nure and mak­ing hand­some prof­its from this in­for­mal business

FARMER RAJ Anna has been mak­ing un­prece­dented prof­its from his farm­land since the past few years.The 42-year-old earns more than ` 15 lakh a year.Ask him how he man­ages such a hand­some in­come and he replies—through hu­man exc­reta. Anna is one of the 1,000-odd farm­ers in Ben­galuru who have re­vived the lost prac­tice of us­ing hu­man exc­reta as ma­nure.

“Our an­ces­tors used hu­man exc­reta in farm­lands. In fact, as a child, I saw my fa­ther de­sign a la­trine us­ing a net of wood.In sum­mers, he would cover the la­trine with husk. Later, he would use the waste in the farm,” says Anna, adding that it was a nat­u­ral process in the ear­lier days as peo­ple would defe­cate in farms. “With the pop­u­lar­ity of mod­ern-day la­trines this prac­tice has re­duced in the past few decades,” he points out.

Anna, who was the first farmer in Ben­galuru’s Veer Sa­gara sub­urb to start us­ing hu­man waste as ma­nure, ex­plains that the idea came to him one day when he saw a honey-sucker truck—a spe­cialised ve­hi­cle used for ex­tract­ing and trans­port­ing waste— dump­ing hu­man exc­reta in a fal­low piece of land. “Ini­tially, I would wait for the trucks to dump the waste in fal­low land and then trans­port it to my farm­land. Later, I dug a big pit and asked the driv­ers to di­rectly dump the waste on my land,” he says.

Ac­cord­ing to him, it is a win-win sit­u­a­tion for all, with him get­ting free ma­nure and the trucks get­ting a free space to dump the waste. “In a few months, I started get­ting so much waste that I be­gan sell­ing it to other farm­ers,” adds Anna.

To­day, this has started an in­for­mal trade in Ben­galuru which is ben­e­fit­ing the farm­ers, owner of honey-suck­ers and cit­i­zens who are not con­nected to the sew­er­age sys­tem. The in­for­mal sec­tor to­day em­ploys close to 200,000 peo­ple and is worth ` 75 crore.

A win-win sit­u­a­tion

Ben­galuru has a pop­u­la­tion of 8.5 mil­lion, as per the 2011 Cen­sus. Ide­ally, the Ben­galuru Wa­ter Sup­ply and Sew­er­age Board (bwssb) should take care of sewage treat­ment and dis­posal.But the re­al­ity is that just 40 per cent of the city is con­nected to the sewage net­work, ac­cord­ing to the Comptroller and Au­di­tor Gen­eral re­port 2011. The rest of the city, or 5.1 mil­lion peo­ple, have on-site san­i­ta­tion with off-site dis­posal, or are forced to defe­cate in the open, says a pa­per pre­pared by the In­ter­na­tional Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion Cen­tre in 2012.

Ben­galuru-based en­gi­neer S Vishwanath, who coau­thored the pa­per, says the huge pop­u­la­tion in the coun­try not con­nected with the sewage sys­tem has to find its own way to han­dle the waste. This is the ba­sis of the new in­for­mal econ­omy that is emerg­ing in the city.

The ar­eas that do not have a sew­er­age con­nec­tion have sep­tic tanks and rely on pri­vate honey-sucker op­er­a­tors to empty the tanks.The truck op­er­a­tors, who ear­lier strug­gled to find waste­land to dump the exc­reta, now have free space in farm­lands.

Nagesh­war Rao, who owns eight honey----

Farm­ers in Ben­galuru are us­ing hu­man exc­reta as ma­nure to grow high-qual­ity grass

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