Metro City in Indonesia rewrites its sanitation story

Kota Metro vacuum truck

Metro City set for itself an ambitious sanitation target by 2024.[1] Towards achieving this, the city partnered with SNV to address the pile up of untreated human waste and improve the quality of emptying and treatment services. This article reflects on the partners’ approach to revive the proper functioning of one faecal sludge treatment plant.[2]

Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant (FSTP) Karangrejo has been servicing Metro City in Indonesia’s Lampung province since 2015. For years, the FSTP’s services and potential for growth were constrained by low consumer demand and challenges in its technical design, operations and maintenance. Despite the city’s success in eradicating open defecation practice in 2019, sanitation challenges continued to persist, including the dismal practice of safe collection, transport, and treatment of human waste.

Metro City ODF announcement

Metro City is declared open-defecation free

Common technical and operational woes

FSTP Karangrejo has the capacity to treat 45 cubic meters of faecal sludge per day. But it has been operating at a low 4% of its daily optimal capacity. Low demand for services restricted growth in the number of sludge trucks in operation and accelerated the plant’s wear and tear. Service operations and maintenance (O&M) suffered from the: (i) need for facility design upgrades, as the current design did not support optimal treatment; and (ii) absence of a Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for FSTP O&M, during stable and extreme weather conditions.

Topography and climate change

Located in the northern part of Metro City, FSTP Karangrejo is impacted by shifting weather conditions; it is flood prone, and more recently, at heightened risk of drought.[3] Due to its relatively flat surface, flooding has been a normal occurrence in Metro City. However, precipitation trends between the years 2001 and 2016, have shown a progressive downward trend in rainfall.[4]

Aerial shot of FSTP Karangrejo

Location of FSTP Karangrejo

Flooding or drought have a debilitating effect on FSM services provision and responsiveness. If a sanitation facility in the user interface (toilet and septic tank) is broken or submerged, the difficulty level for desludging services is heightened. Moreover, when desludging services are delayed or indefinitely suspended, human waste in sub-standard or broken containments is likely to flow into the living environment or seep into the ground. Exposure to untreated faeces or ground contamination [5] puts the population at risk and can spiral into a public health threat.

A public-private-partnership response with government on the lead

Several activities had been set in motion to protect the city and its residents from the imminent threat of global warming and poor access to sanitation and hygiene.

With local government and the operator, SNV co-developed the FSTP’s rehabilitation plan and SOPs for operations and maintenance. The rehabilitation plan provides structural improvements in the flow of wastewater from the solid separation chamber. To date, because the pipe setting is too high, wastewater is not flowing into the treatment pond. Elements of an SOP are currently being trialled with FSTP staff. Lessons emerging from the trials will inform the finalisation of FSTP Karangrejo’s SOP to ensure that operators understand the treatment process and are kept healthy and safe when providing a service.

Local government has taken leadership in raising the city’s awareness and demand for emptying services. With full support from Metro City’s mayor, the regular desludging programme L2T2 was launched in 2021. This campaign is complemented by several other activities:

  • Policy cohesion to ensure that the L2T2 progamme is well-integrated in other government activities. To date, the enactment of tariff regulation and wastewater management regulation now supports L2T2 implementation.

  • Introduction of a regular desludging savings scheme for government employees.

  • Promotion of regular desludging practice within the health sector, through SNV’s ongoing behavioural change communications work.

To establish climate-resilient services, SNV is assisting the local government and operator to develop a zoning service delivery strategy for disaster-prone areas. The strategy will ensure that areas most prone to flooding and droughts are prioritised during the first round of desludging services.

Still at its infancy stages, the results and impact of facility upgrades, SOP introduction, and the L2T2 programme will only be known much later. By addressing the supply and demand side, and with government on the lead – Metro City is rewriting its sanitation story and is likely to meet its 2024 sanitation and hygiene targets.

Written by: Annisa Pramestri Putri, Cécile Laborderie and Anjani Abella
[1] By 2024, Metro City aims to ensure that 95% of all residents have access to improved sanitation and 12% practise safe sanitation. See, Y. Tusiana, ‘Kick Off Program Layanan Lumput Tinja Terjadwal Kota Metro_’,_ info.metrokota.go.id, 2021, https://info.metrokota.go.id/sanitasi-amanmetro-wujudkan-program-lltt/ (accessed 8 October 2021).
[2] Work in Metro City Indonesia was carried out by SNV as part of the Dutch government-funded WASH SDG consortium programme.
[3] SNV, Climate Vulnerability and Resilient Research, Jakarta, SNV Indonesia, 2018. p.79.
[4] SNV, Climate Vulnerability and Resilient Research, Jakarta, SNV Indonesia, 2018. p.73.
[5] An earlier study by SNV found that Metro City residents overwhelmingly use groundwater wells for their daily water needs (cooking, washing, drinking) and that the local water company only supplies 5% of the city’s population. See, SNV, Climate Vulnerability and Resilient Research, Jakarta, SNV Indonesia, 2018.
For more information, contact Cécile Laborderie, SNV WASH Sector Leader in Indonesia by email.