Working in tandem: the informal septic tank emptying market in Aya Nagar, Delhi

16 March 2018
New report by Sweta Celine Xess and Marie-Héléne Zérah

The aim of this research report is to explore the types of sanitation services that exist in non-networked settlements. Based on the 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 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 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 stigmatised activity as it deals with human excreta, which in India, is traditionally associated with low-caste communities.

The full report can be accessed here.

The views shared belong to individual faculty and researchers and do not represent an institutional stance on the issue.