When the pits fill up: (in)visible flows of waste in urban India
Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Previously Published Works bannerUC Berkeley

When the pits fill up: (in)visible flows of waste in urban India

  • Author(s): Prasad, CS Sharada
  • Ray, Isha
  • et al.

Abstract India's flagship program on sanitation and hygiene – the Swachh Bharat Mission – aims to eliminate open defecation and to manage urban waste for a ‘Clean India’. The emptying of toilet pits and the transport of waste are as critical as more toilets are for sustainable sanitation. In unsewered cities of the global South, these services are mainly provided by privately run cleaning trucks. We find that the physical and social mechanisms through which these services are organized are virtually invisible in national fecal sludge and waste management policies. Based on a rich ethnography of cleaning trucks in Bangalore, India, we show that trucking operations dispose of sludge in ways that harm both public health and the environment, and that the caste composition of sanitation work helps to keep it invisible from officials and the public. We draw on the concept of the social role of disgust to explain the seen-and-unseen nature of these trucks. ‘Seeing’ sludge management as it is practiced is essential for understanding how the sanitary city is being produced and for the success of future sanitation reforms. This article has been made Open Access thanks to the generous support of a global network of libraries as part of the Knowledge Unlatched Select initiative.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
Current View