Part 4: Honey suckers
Devanahalli town is entirely dependent on on-site sanitation having pit toilets and septic tanks. Devanahalli has majority of pit toilets than septic tanks. Pit toilets are made up of cement rings varying from 10-15 feet in depth. In old houses, pit toilets are comparatively bigger in size and are made up of stones. Pit emptying cycle is driven by seasons. In summers, fecal sludge is said to be more dry. During monsoons absorption of fecal sludge by the ground is said to be low. Thus pit emptying is said to be more during monsoons.
Honey suckers play a vital role in emptying, transporting and disposal of fecal sludge. There is a combination of both private and government honey suckers in the town. There is one government owned and four private owned honey suckers in Devanahalli. Government honey sucker is almost a decade old and lack the manpower meaning it gets to operate when a driver is available. The four private honey suckers are owned by Narasimha Murthy, Punith, Ramesh and Kiran. Government owned honey sucker charges Rs.1000 to empty a pit toilet and Private honey suckers charges Rs.800 on an average (price is kept low to compete with government honey sucker). A pit toilet can usually have 1000-1500 litres of fecal sludge. Honey suckers are usually of 3500-4000 litres capacity. A honey sucker can accommodate more pit toilets (3-4 pit toilets) in summer when compared to winter(1-2pit toilets). On an average a honey sucker can accommodate 1-2 pit toilets.
Honey suckers are asked to dispose fecal sludge only in the Fecal Sludge Treatment Plant(FSTP). TMC puts fine on honey suckers disposing fecal sludge in the open fields.
Honey sucker emptying the fecal sludge in FSTP
Honey sucker operator Kiran: Honey sucker operator Mr. Kiran makes about 1 to 3 trips a day. Three is the maximum trips he makes which will be 12,000litres of fecal sludge in quantity. He says in recent years the number of rented houses are more in number and the pit toilet contains about 3000litres of fecal sludge. "If we dispose fecal sludge in open spaces TMC will fine us. If the capacity of FSTP is full, TMC asks us to dispose in the open fields more than 5kms away from the city. When the FSTP is full or far from the collection point and if farmers are not taking fecal sludge we dispose of FS in open farm fields, mostly when the crop is harvested so it also helps the future cultivation. I think the capacity of FSTP is very less."
Honey sucker operator Punith: Mr.Punith's honey sucker is having 6000 litres of capacity. He mostly takes grey water from the commercial plots which is allowed to be dumped in farm fields. According to Punith, "the collection tank has just 5000 litres capacity. It takes more time to empty my honey sucker in the FSTP. I have to wait for one to two hours just to unload. I have to be competitive in my business, I cannot afford to say no to calls I get from households and thus I have no other choice to find a dumping place elsewhere after TMC limits. FSTP is a good initiative but it is not executed properly. There is a strong need to have big sumps."
Honey sucker operator Ramesh: Mr.Ramesh is a 45year old honey sucker operator who mostly serves within Devanahalli town. According to Ramesh, "We cannot find an open space to empty the fecal sludge. People question us if we dump in open spaces. During the rainy season it becomes all the more difficult. Thus having a formal disposal site helps us. FSTP capacity is very less. Rajkumar asks honey suckers to wait or to come back after an hour if both the tanks are full. Least it should accommodate 8 trucks. If FSTP are created in other places like in Chikkaballapur it helps us. "