From 3rd to 5th January 2024, 57 IIHS Urban Fellows, part of the 2023-24 Urban Fellows Programme, completed an enriching visit to Tiruchirappalli and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. The immersive experience offered a profound insight into sanitation initiatives along the Full Cycle of Sanitation by IIHS-led projects Tamil Nadu Urban Sanitation Support Programme (TNUSSP) across the state and Citywide Inclusive Sanitation (CWIS) in Tiruchirappalli.

In Tirunelveli, the fellows explored the collaborative project Restoration of Social-Ecological Systems of Tamiraparani Riverscape with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) Foundation. They also examined the innovative gravity-based Fecal Sludge Treatment Plant in Vickramasingapuram Municipality, understanding the operational mechanisms of FSTPs in non-sewered towns. Through this visit, they also learned about the governance structures ensuring the sustainability of these treatment facilities. 

In Tiruchirappalli, engagements with the CWIS team provided a deep dive into the muti-pronged inclusive sanitation practices. Visits to containment improvement sites and co-treatment facilities demonstrated the practical implementation of initiatives and gave immense insights. The fellows had the opportunity to interact with various stakeholders, including community members, De-Sludging Operators (DSOs), community toilet caretakers and Self-Help Group (SHG) members. Their engagements covered a spectrum of topics, from social protection and occupational health and safety to gender perspectives.

The immersive experience included direct interactions with sanitation workers and the urban poor, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the sanitation sector. This exposure visit not only broadened the fellows’ perspectives on sanitation initiatives but also highlighted the impactful work being done by IIHS, TNUSSP, and CWIS in contributing to the improvement of urban sanitation in Tamil Nadu.