Working In Tandem: The Informal Septic Tank Emptying Market In Aya Nagar, Delhi

By Sweta Celine Xess and Marie-Hélène Zérah
16 March 2018

The aim of this research report is to explore the types of sanitation services that exist in non-networked settlements. Based on a case study of Aya Nagar in South Delhi, the research shows how households are primarily dependent on septic tanks, and rely on an informal market comprising of small-scale local entrepreneurs for the emptying of faecal sludge. We find that this sector’s functions are structured by the entrepreneurs themselves, who check competition, manage tariffs and mitigate operational risks through collective action. This arrangement relies on the existing networks of kinship and friendship between operators. Financially, the sector offers entrepreneurs a low but steady source of income given a recurrent demand for desludging service in the settlement. Nevertheless, the occupation remains a socially stigmatized activity as it deals with human excreta, which in India, is traditionally associated with lowcaste communities.