Use your tech prowess to end manual scavenging in cities


A contract worker in Bengaluru trying to repair a blocked manhole (2013). Pic: Shree D N

Management of liquid waste (sewage and septage) is a huge challenge for urban local bodies in India. Despite efforts in various directions, the scourge of manual scavenging – cleaning of sewer networks, septic tanks and other onsite sanitation systems by human labour – is something that has not been completely eradicated from our cities.

Manual scavenging is, in fact, one of those sad dichotomies that continue to haunt our cities, which are, on the one hand, adopting sophisticated technology to upgrade the quality of urban life in many ways, and on the other, grappling with the social and health ramifications of continuing regressive practices such as this.

Here’s your chance to make a difference, though. Especially if you are a technology enthusiast.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Govt of India, has launched a technology challenge for promoting suitable techniques for cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without calling for human entry into septic tanks/manholes etc.

On May 4, 2018, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the latter had expressed his desire to launch such a challenge to promote latest technologies that could do away with manual cleaning of such sanitation channels.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, which was entrusted with the task, has now launched the “Technology Challenge: Identifying solutions for cleaning of Sewerage Systems and Septic Tanks”.

The said challenge will be a part of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention which is to be held on October 2, 2018. The window for entries will remain open up to 17:30 hours on 14 August, 2018.

Aims and objectives

The proposed challenge invites solutions that address cleaning of choked sewer drains and septic tanks without any need for human entry in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Elimination of human entry into sewer drains and cleaning of the septic tank is the ultimate goal of this Challenge.

In order to address the challenge, technological solutions are needed. At the same time, it is imperative that any technological solution will have a handling mechanism and business model. Accordingly, the key objectives of the challenge have been identified as follows:

  • Identify technological as well as business process innovations.
  • Endorse viable business models that are suitable for a different size, geographies, and class of cities.
  • Pilot test and hand-hold to scale the shortlisted technologies/solutions in select project cities.
  • Bridge the gap between innovators/manufacturers and beneficiaries- i.e. ULBs, citizens

Who can participate?

Proposals have been invited from interested innovators, individuals, consortium partners, companies, academic institutions, research and development centers, NGOs, Parastatal and municipal bodies.

Evaluation process and criteria

For evaluation and scrutiny of the technological solutions submitted by the participants, a jury shall be constituted from among experts from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, faculty from IITs/IIMs and representatives of leading civil society groups. The jurors for evaluation of the proposals shall adopt the following broad criteria.

  1. a) The operational effectiveness of the Technology
  2. b) Life of machinery/ Durability
  3. c) Ease of use (automation)
  4. d) Ease of availability/Economies of scale
  5. e) Adaptability/Versatility
  6. f) Made in India
  7. g) Environmentally Sustainable


The Challenge shall be conducted for two separate categories:

  • Category A: Technological solutions for cleaning and maintenance of sewerage systems that eliminate need for human entry
  • Category B:Technological solutions for cleaning and maintenance of septic tanks that eliminate need for human entry.

Further details about the Technology Challenge and application forms are available here.

[The information presented here has been compiled on the basis of a press note released by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) and other information on the website of the ministry.]

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