Towards Brown Gold: Nepal

Nepal was declared open defecation free (ODF) in 2019 by former prime minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli. However, sanitation challenges persist.

The Towards Brown Gold project is working in two rapidly growing cities in south-western Nepal: Gulariya and Lumbini. We are bringing together natural and social sciences, along with arts expertise through an interdisciplinary approach.


Gulariya was one of the first ODF declared municipalities in Nepal in 2015, and is moving towards total sanitation. But challenges in managing off-grid sanitation systems persist. Arrangements for the safe containment and disposal of human waste are inadequate and expensive. Sanitation workers have limited access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and are seldom covered by health insurance. Communities who are marginalised are prone to severe health risks arising from poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

We are working with the local community and other stakeholders to understand barriers to safe faecal waste (sludge) management and reuse amongst marginalised households by exploring key issues across the entire sanitation chain. We are contributing to policy and technology development to safely contain and manage faecal sludge and to optimise the recovery of resources.


Lumbini Park is a world heritage site and, within Buddhist tradition, is the birthplace of Buddha, bringing tourists and pilgrims from all across the Nepal and the world.

We have built three mud houses in Lumbini Peace Park. These houses were created to provide a space to display information and stimulate conversation about where people’s faecal waste goes and how it can be safely and sustainably reused in rapidly expanding towns such as Gulariya.

Schools, government officials, and local people are invited to the mud houses to engage with sanitation workers, and to find out more from the Towards Brown Gold project team, until the end of 2023.

We worked with 12 sanitation workers from Lumbini to create and deliver a performance during the Women of the World Festival 2022, which is organised by the British Council. Their performance brought attention to the incredible work they do, and findings from the Towards Brown Gold project so far, along with an information stall hosted by the project in the festival. This exciting work is shown in two shot films.

Research partners

We are working with the Integrated Development Society Nepal (IDS Nepal), the Nepal Engineering College, the University of Brighton, the University of Bedfordshire, and WaterAid, independent consultants, and the British Council Nepal in Nepal.


Policy Brief



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Project details

start date
1 April 2020
end date
1 September 2023


About this project



Recent work