Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) uses suction machines to clean septic tanks and sewerage lines. These machines are equipped to perform hydraulic, jetting, grabbing and rodding works. The machines can clean manholes 30-feet deep and can enter narrow lanes. The silt, slug and other waste can be pulled out via a broad pipe attached to the section machine. This work used to be done manually.
The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, prohibits manual cleaning of toilet waste, sewers, and septic tanks without protective gear and mechanised equipment.
“There are some instances when the manholes and the sewerage are choked. At that time, workers alone can dive in to the manhole to clear the clogged silt. The workers are equipped with proper gear, like gas masks, safety harness belts, helmets and pumps,” said a stormwater drains department official. Before a worker enters the manhole, its lid is kept open for at least half-an-hour, to allow gases to evaporate from the septic tank or sewerage line. After this, a match stick is lit and thrown in the gutter to detect the presence of any residual gas. If there is any gas present, the match will catch fire, which is a sign for the worker to wait before entering.
Despite being aware of the risks this operation entails, some workers do it for the money. Sometimes, they are hired by some private housing societies to clean septic tanks without safety gear.