World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP (2011) estimated that the total annual economic impact of inadequate sanitation in Bharat amounted to a loss of INR 2.4 trillion (USD 53.8 billion) in 2006, which was equivalent to about 6.4% of Bharat’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2006.
The 12th Five Year Plan document noted that “2030 Water Resources Group (2009) estimates that if the current pattern of water demand in the Country continues, about half of the demand for water will be unmet by 2030”. Bharat’s Planning Commission also made the observation in 2011 that poverty is highest in regions, states and districts where a larger share of agriculture is rain-fed; the 100 poorest districts in the country are almost entirely located in rain-fed areas.
According to the assessment made by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the status of wastewater generation and treatment in Class I cities and Class II towns during 2009, about 38,255 Millions Liter Per Day (MLD) of wastewater were generated in Class I cities and Class II towns in Bharat (housing more than 70% of the urban population). The wastewater treatment capacity developed was only 11,788 MLD accounting for about 31% of total wastewater generated in these two classes of urban centers during 2009.
There are 35 metropolitan cities (more than 10 Lac Population) in Bharat and 15,644 MLD of sewage is generated from these metropolitan cities. Whereas the treatment capacity exists only for 8040 MLD i.e. 51% is treatment capacity is created.
Consequently more than 69% of the wastewater generated in Class I and II cities and towns and 49% of the waste water generated in 35 metropolitan cities mentioned above is discharged on land or in various water bodies without any treatment, resulting in large-scale environmental pollution and creating a health hazard for the general public. The discharge of untreated or partially treated wastewater on land or surface water bodies is a major source of pollution, contaminating 70% of the country’s fresh water –in the ground or on the surface. (According to the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI)
If 80% of urban wastewater could be treated by 2030, there would be a total volume of around 17 Billion Cubic Metres (BCM) per year; an increase of around 400% in the volume of available treated wastewater!. This additional 17 BCM of treated wastewater resource, if captured, treated safely and recycled, is equivalent to almost 75% of the projected industrial demand in 2025 (Ministry of Water Resources, 2006) and almost a quarter of the total projected drinking water requirement in the country.
Industrial water requirement constitutes almost 10% of all non-irrigation water demand in Bharat, and is expected to increase to almost 17% by 2050 according to World Bank (2016). Use of treated wastewater can provide industries with a reliable source of water supply, and in most cases, a supply that is cheaper than procuring freshwater and also an additional source of revenue to the civic bodies.
Collection, treatment and reuse of municipal wastewater provides an opportunity for not only environmental rehabilitation, but also meeting the increasing water needs of different economic sectors. In addition to recycled wastewater becoming an extra and valuable water source, there are opportunities to recover nutrients and energy from wastewater.
70% of Bharat’s population relies on agriculture for sustenance and agriculture, and in turn, is heavily reliant on rain-fed irrigation in large parts of the country. Wastewater contains valuable nutrients-nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK), which may either be recovered as a resource or recycled when treated wastewater is reused for irrigation or other applications.
Use of treated wastewater and sludge for agriculture has the potential to reduce reliance on fertilizer by about 40% due to its inherent nutrient content. It is estimated that usage of treated waste water in agriculture can lead to an increase of about 30% in the farmer’s income compared to when the farmer uses freshwater alone.
Recycled wastewater generates the following benefits:
- An additional source of water
- Source of revenue for ULBs (Urban Local Bodies)
- Nutrient recycling through wastewater recycling
- Reduction in ground water pumping requirement.
However, one has to be very careful because if the treatment of municipal waste water is inadequate it may lead to diarrhoeal diseases and helminthic infections.
There is a large gap between generation and treatment of wastewater in Bharat as mentioned above. Even the treatment capacity existing is also not effectively utilized due to operation and maintenance problem. Operation and maintenance of existing plants and sewage pumping stations is not satisfactory, as nearly 39% plants are not conforming to the general standards prescribed under the Environmental (Protection) Rules for discharge into streams as per the CPCB’s survey report.
Israel and Singapore are two countries among few other nations in the world who are good at waste water management as they know the value of water since they have limited natural resources including water.
Nagpur shows the way
Nearly five years ago, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation made a beginning by treating and reusing 130 (MLD) which has now reached 480 MLD out of the total 525 MLD the city generates. The central and state government made it mandatory for thermal power stations and industrial units to buy treated sewage from urban local bodies situated within a radius of 50 km and this has become a boon to Nagpur city since thermal power stations are situated near the city.
Electrocoagulation technique is being applied by start-up entrepreneurs in Mumbai to treat industrial effluent and wastewater from industries, and sewage from residential, commercial, and municipal establishments. This technique involves the passing of electricity through pollutants and contaminants to break down their chemical bonds which is considered to be more effective than a simple chemical filtration.
Waste water management under PPP Models
There is an urgent need to bring legislation to ensure that all major cities and towns in Bharat are mandated to go for recycling of the waste waters. This requires not only political will but also commitment and active participation from all the major stake holders, viz., Local Governments, Industry and the Society.
The government can think of launching this mission under PPP Model with the collaboration of the industry, commercial establishments and townships so that these collaborators not only become investors but also beneficiaries who can access the recycled water for consumption. This strategy will also preserve the depleting ground water resources in the cities and prevent further damage to the soil caused by leaving the untreated waste waters into the earth.
The World Bank estimates that Bharat’s total water and sanitation sector is worth $420 million, with an annual growth rate of 18 per cent and therefore, sustainable water management practices will further improve Bharat’s sanitation sector market value.
Let us hope all the stake holders will realise the gravity of the situation and take immediate long term measures to prevent Bharat from becoming a water scarce country by 2050. If we don’t take timely measures now we will be depriving the future generations of their legitimate right to water resources which is inexcusable.
(Featured image for representational purpose only. Source)
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