Sanitation and wastewater management problems in small and medium towns in India (referred to as “semi-urban areas” - SUAs) are distinctly different from those of large cities or rural villages. There is an apparent lack of choices of appropriate sanitation options for these semi-urban areas, leading them to adopt on-site sanitation technologies. A field study of four such small towns in India was conducted to evaluate the suitability of available low-cost wastewater collection and treatment technologies, in light of their current practice. Based on the field study, this paper suggests a system comprising “combined surface sewers” and “reed-bed channel” for collection and treatment of wastewater for semi-urban areas, that can utilize all the existing infrastructure to effect better sanitation at lower costs. The suggested system involves converting the existing open wastewater collection drains on the road sides, as “decentralized” networks of covered drains with simple structural modifications to collect both wastewater and stormwater; and, converting the large open drains on the outskirts of SUAs that carry wastewater to agricultural fields, as gravel media filled beds planted with local reeds. Cost estimates for the towns studied indicate this system to be over 70% cheaper compared to conventional collection and treatment systems.

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