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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 170-171

Promoting Safe Use of Wastewater: Public Health Perspective

Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Ammapettai, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication24-Oct-2017

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh R Shrivastava
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, 3rd Floor, Ammapettai village, Thiruporur-Guduvancherry Main Road, Sembakkam, Kanchipuram - 603 108, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mamcjms.mamcjms_36_17

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How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Promoting Safe Use of Wastewater: Public Health Perspective. MAMC J Med Sci 2017;3:170-1

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Promoting Safe Use of Wastewater: Public Health Perspective. MAMC J Med Sci [serial online] 2017 [cited 2020 Aug 13];3:170-1. Available from: http://www.mamcjms.in/text.asp?2017/3/3/170/217121


Ensuring universal access to an improved sanitation facility has been acknowledged as one of the major global public health priorities.[1] In fact, it has been estimated that close to 0.84 million people from low- and middle-income nations die annually due to inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene practices.[1],[2] Out of these reported deaths, one-third have been attributed to poor sanitation facilities.[1],[2] Even though a significant improvement has been observed in the proportion of people with an access to improved sanitation facilities since 1990, almost 2.4 billion people are still deprived of the basic facilities, whereas close to 13% of the world’s population is forced to defecate in the open.[1],[2]

In Kolkata, India, the underground sewer system has been disposing untreated wastewater in hundreds of ponds for more than hundred years.[3] The disposed sewage gets converted into plankton in the presence of sunlight and oxygen, which is subsequently consumed by fish that are cultivated and, eventually, sold in the market.[3] Further, the pond water is then directed to agricultural lands and is utilized to cultivate different vegetables, and such fishing or farming serves as a source of livelihood for thousands of families in the region.[3] It has been identified that the city’s wastewater reuse system is recycling more than 85% of the city’s waste either for aquaculture or for farming.[3]

Even though reuse of wastewater plays a crucial role in the reduction of soil or water pollution and in improving the nutritional status of people, such practices significantly expose them to the risks of acquiring diarrhea or parasitic infections both to themselves and to the downstream inhabitants.[2],[3] Considering the facts that at least 10% of the global populations consume food irrigated with wastewater, and 40% are residing in areas with shortage of water where fresh water supply is diminishing day-by-day, it is extremely important to ensure that wastewater is treated and reused safely, as poor sanitation is linked to transmission of multiple diseases.[3]

Currently, wastewater treatment is poor in most of the developing nations, and it is quite an alarming fact that untreated wastewater can play a crucial role in spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria when used for domestic purpose or for growing food.[1],[2] It was estimated that mere improvement in sanitation minimizes the risk of diarrhea by only 15%, but on safe management and disposal of excreta, an extra 60% decline in the incidence of diarrheal episodes can be achieved.[1],[2],[3] A wide range of measures have been proposed to minimize the associated health risks, such as treatment of wastewater, crop restriction, adoption of drip irrigation method to reduce contamination, keeping spacing periods to allow pathogen die-off after the last wastewater application, ensuring hygienic practices at food markets and during food preparation, promoting health, hygiene, chemotherapy, and immunization.[3]

To accomplish safe sanitation management, to assist nations in the safe treatment or reuse of wastewater, the World Health Organization WHO has formulated a risk management tool under the name of Sanitation Safety Planning.[3] The proposed tool aids the concerned stakeholders in implementing standard guidelines for the safe use of wastewater, excreta in aquaculture, farming, at the same time, appropriately respond to the potential associated health risks.[3]

The WHO has organized training sessions for representatives from different nations to empower them to support their nations to safely manage their sanitation systems.[3] These participants have carefully identified the risks by interviewing the farmers in the city and have proposed interventions to minimize health risks to the people living in the area.[3] It is extremely important to broaden our attention from not only improving access to safe water and sanitation, but to ensure that the excreta are properly removed from houses, treated, and then only disposed safely.[1],[2],[3]

To conclude, despite improvement in the sanitation facilities, major disparities between and within nations still exist. This is high time that collaborative efforts are taken to ensure appropriate collection, management, and safe reuse of wastewater or disposal of excreta.

  References Top

World Health Organization. Sanitation–Fact Sheet No. 392; 2016. Available from: http://who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs392/en/. [Last accessed on Apr 27, 2017].  Back to cited text no. 1
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Why we have failed to improve the sanitation facilities and what are the possible consequences? Public health perspective. Int J Adv Med Health Res 2015;2:149-50.  Back to cited text no. 2
World Health Organization. Kolkata’s Fishermen and Farmers Reuse what’s Flushed Down the Toilet; 2017. Available from: http://who.int/features/2017/kolkata-water-reuse/en/. [Last accessed on Apr 27, 2017].  Back to cited text no. 3


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