“Sewage treatment and management is one of the most challenging issues of rapid urbanization”: Rajiv Ranjan Mishra- Director-General, Namami Gange

Experts discuss the opportunities and challenges in sewage treatment and management caused by unorganized and fast-paced urbanization at a Webinar Organised by National Faecal Sludge Septage Alliance

In a webinar “Opportunities Co-Treatment of Septage at Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs)” organised by National Faecal Sludge Septage Alliance, experts discussed the opportunities and challenges in sewage treatment and management caused by unorganised and fast-paced urbanisation. The event started with moderators, Prof Srinivas Chary Vedala, Director, Administrative Staff College of India and Mr. SasankaVelidandla, an independent consultant explained the current state of co-treatment happening in 7 cities across the country. They said only 20% of the septage can be treated at existing 1200 STPs and set the background for the discussion.

The discussion began with Keynote speaker, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra-Director General, Namami Gange acquainting the audience with the work done by Namami Gange to improve sewage management. He said “Traditionally, untreated sewage water is recklessly released into water bodies which are eventually sources of our drinking water. Reviving Ganga was inevitable without addressing this issue.”Mr. Mishra also shared that when they started working on sewage management, they discovered most of the sewage treatment plants are underutilised due to lack of network to transport sewage from distant localities and also because the STPs are being planned for future requirements upto 15 years. “The average capacity utilization of the existing STPs is around 60%. The available unutilized capacity presents an opportunity for utilizing them for co-treatment for the faecal sludge”, he added. NMCG is including these arrangements in designing new STPs at the sanction itself and is promoting faecal sludge and septage management as another important strategy for improving city wide sanitation and to get rid of pollution entering into the river.

Sewage management is not only an issue for smaller towns but it’s a far bigger mess in bigger cities. “Out of 7 million people of Delhi living in 1799 unauthorised colonies, only 14% have access to government-provided sewage systems. A vast majority of this sewage is either going to forests, manholes or rivers”, said Shailaja Chandra, member, NGT committee for River Yamuna. She also shared how in the last five years attempts have been able to improve the situation to a certain extent by assigning accountability to District Magistrates, creating a transport system with GPS enabled vehicles to carry sewage.

Nawon Kin - Senior Urban Development Specialist, Urban Development and Water Division, Asian Development Bank highlighted the importance of inclusive sanitation system. Shri Dana Kishore, MD, Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board and Thiru. S. Sivasubramanian, Commissioner, Trichy City, Municipal Corporation presented case studies of successfully implementing co-treatment of septage. Dr.Absar Kazmi, IIT, Roorkee spoke about the challenges in converting existing STPs to co-treatment. Ms Shandhya Haribal, Project Manager, CDD Society and Dr. Suresh Kumar Rohilla, Senior Director Water Program, CSC emphasized the need of developing a checklist and standard operating procedures before converting an STP to co-treatment plant.”

One of the major concluding themes that were agreed on by all panellists was the ambitious target to accomplish a 100% septage being treated by 2021. Mission 2021 – Not a single drop of septage should go to rivers.