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Indian government to step up enforcement to eradicate sewer cleaning deaths
More stringent enforcement of the laws banning the manual cleaning of underground sewers and septic tanks in India has been promised as part of a new government drive aimed at stamping out the practice which claims numerous lives each year, reports the British Safety Council.
Announcing the new National Action Plan for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE), Social Justice & Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar said the plan aims to eliminate fatalities during the manual entering and cleaning of sewers and septic tanks - known as manual scavenging - through measures such as better enforcement of the law at national, state and urban local body level.
He added the plan would also seek to ensure all sanitation work involving the removal of human excreta from locations like sewers is carried out by skilled workers.
According to the Economic Times, the plan will begin with a survey and questionnaire in around 500 cities aimed at identifying and creating a database of all workers involved in the cleaning of faecal matter from locations like septic tanks and drains and the operation and maintenance of sanitation installations, like sewer networks, wastewater treatment plants and public and institutional toilets, in urban areas.
Manual scavengers are at risk of death from asphyxiation due to poisonous gases and are often exposed to diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, meningitis, jaundice, skin disorders and even cardiovascular diseases. They often lack access to proper safety gear and equipment.
The work is mostly undertaken by members of the Dalit caste, who are at the bottom of India's archaic caste system.
Read the Indian government's Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Cleaning of Sewers and Septic Tanks at:
1st September 2022