Sewer deaths: Centre calls for quick response units

Stress on trained cleaners, protective gear

Updated - July 16, 2019 11:06 pm IST

Published - July 16, 2019 11:02 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Concerned by the incidents of workers dying while cleaning sewers and septic tanks, the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has asked all States and Union Territories to set up emergency response sanitation units (ERSU), which would include trained cleaners wearing protective gear.

In letters to all Chief Secretaries on July 12, Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry Secretary Durga Shanker Mishra wrote: “The Government of India is seized of press reports regarding number of fatalities attributed to entry into sewers and septic tanks (both public and private) of personnel employed for their cleaning or removal of chokes.”

While manual scavenging is officially banned, under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, incidents of private individuals, local bodies and contractors forcing people to enter sewers and tanks to clear blockages continue to be reported. The official said the workers had not been given protective gear, training or backup support by their employers.

He said while mechanical cleaning should be promoted, there were some instances when human entry into sewers and tanks could not be avoided.

“Therefore, to implement the provisions of PEMSRA Act, 2013 regarding hazardous cleaning of sewers/septic tanks, it is advised that States/Uts/ULBs [urban local bodies] should set up an ERSU, on the lines of the fire service station, in capital cities of each State/UT and in all major cities having a municipal corporation and/or water and sewerage board with population of more than one lakh,” the letter said.

The district Magistrate or municipal commissioner would be designated as the Responsible Sanitation Authority, which would organise the staff for the ERSU, the letter said. He added that those trained, equipped and certified as sewer entry professionals would be the only ones allowed to enter sewers and septic tanks.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.