Navrangi life! Know how this web drama creatively showcases fecal sludge management in India

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The country’s urban areas produce more than 120,000 tonnes of faecal sludge per day. According to the data, only 33% of homes are connected to sewers and about 38% regularly use septic tanks. India has made steady efforts to build toilets, but the management and process part remains unclear.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), more than 70% of wastewater generated by urban India is not treated or managed properly. This is dumped indiscriminately into empty spaces, water bodies and agricultural lands, posing a serious threat to the health of the ecosystem.

Adequate services and facilities for the collection, transport, disposal and treatment of faecal sludge do not exist in major parts of the Indian state. Private operators often use manual and illegal methods where they may even dump faecal sludge into waterways, sewers and on land posing a serious health threat.

Yet it is an issue that worries sanitation experts, city planners, governments and public health specialists around the world, especially in India, as 60% of urban areas are not connected to sanitation systems. modern sewers and rely on leach pits and septic tanks. This makes fecal sludge management (FSM) an urgent but hidden public health issue.

A proper and monitored FSM is an adaptable, practical and inexpensive method to supplement centralized sewerage networks while helping to protect the environment and health.

“Life Navrangi”, a “drama” never seen before

In an effort to raise awareness and action on the widespread problem like WSF, The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Media Action has brought its #FlushKeBaad campaign under Navrangi Re! Television drama series. The initiative was taken to raise citizens’ awareness of the correct disposal of human waste.

The campaign is conceptualized by BBC Media Action Global Creative Director, Radharani Mitra and has received support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The second season of the TV drama ‘Navrangi Re!’ was launched under the title of “Life Navrangi”, a seven episode web drama based in India which aims to mainstream the issue of Faecal Sludge and Sludge Management (FSSM).

The program features actors like Aamir Ali and Krishna Mukherjee and veteran actors like Dolly Mattoo, Swaroop Ghosh and Tiku Talsania. It was released on YouTube on May 19, 2022, with a new episode every Thursday.

Is drama effective for such a problem?

In a country like India, which has a rich oral history and a massive television and film industry, everyone loves a good story. At the same time, a drama produced under a smaller banner might have less scope and scale. By contrast, when it comes from a national broadcaster, the scale and reach become vast, and the message can have a positive social impact.

The TV drama Navrangi Re! and the web-drama Life Navrangi are made up of several communication theories and mass behavioral ideas which make them more effective and attractive.

According to several researches conducted around the world, craft dramas are known as edutainment entertainment for development. But it is not only limited to educating, entertaining and informing, but it also encourages discussion, challenges social practices and changes behaviours.

BBC Media Action Global Creative Director Radharani Mitra in conversation with The Logical Indiansaid, “Most people never think about what happens after the toilet is flushed. Most places in India are not connected to the modern sewage system. Residents of metropolitan cities sit on a sewer system, but there is no sewer system in tier two and three cities. To solve this problem, people make leaching pits and septic tanks on site.

Mechanisms such as the operation of a septic tank, its maintenance and then its emptying are not sufficiently monitored. Often, the emptying process is done manually and dumped in an open space, which poses a threat to the health system as it contaminates soil and water, she added.

In 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission – Clean India Mission was launched, and since then the country has made steady efforts to make toilets and eradicate open defecation. But FSSM – or what happens after flushing, how is it contained, and when and where to empty the septic tank – hasn’t been given much prominence or focus, which is the need of the time to lead a healthy life in a contamination-free ecosystem.

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