Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Peeking into the challenges in managing waste water in the tier-2/3 cities in India

In the recently organized 2nd Annual India Utility Knowledge and Networking Conference, experts discussed the Business and Technology Innovations that are the need of the hour for scaling up the Waste Water Management in the tier-2/3 cities in India.

While access to safe drinking water is one challenge that remains to be solved, a corollary and equally significant and impacting health hazard is rising from accumulating municipal & industrial waste water and its untreated disposal. The major issues impacting waste water management are -

  • Cost effective Waste Water Treatment Technology; 
  • By-products use and market development; 
  • Economics and price adoption for Industrial use of treated waste water vs. fresh water; 
  • Public Private Partnerships structuring with clear roles and responsibilities, etc. 

In most ULBs, the reforms are yet to come in. There is still no answer for what to do with recycled water post primary treatment. Often such water is released in nearby water bodies as dissolved impurities in this water can be treated only through RO technology, which is expensive. 

Consider a typical Indian tier 2/3 city with population of 100,000 and about 120-135l water/person/day.  On an average, 80% of the supplied water returns as sewage. At this rate, the city would generate 10mld of sewage per day. 

Experts suggested that installing a 10mld capacity plant with the best in country technology would cost around Rs. 100-130 million i.e. Rs.1300/person investment required. Assuming a 10yrs life of one such plant, the costs come to Rs.130/person/year. This cost plus cost to collect water, suction pump etc put together, recycled water is available at Rs.40/person/month which is about Rs.1.35/person/day. 

If the Government of India considers a country wide investment in waste water treatment, the amount to be raised by government it amounts to (Rs.1.35 x total population of India) per day, which is a huge.

Commercialization of waste water can turn out to be a very useful step in encouraging more industries involved towards treating the waste water. Out 8% of total water supplied to industry, 70% goes to power plants. For Municipal corporations, OpEx still remains an issue since the CapEx is taken care by schemes like JnNURM. Of the total OpEx, 70-80% is the power cost. Without power, it is simply garbage in- garbage out. If power cost is taken care by methods like Group Captive Power Plants (GCPP), the Sewage Treatment Plants could become financially sustainable.

In one such initiative to commercialize and reuse the waste water, Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (Mahagenco) and Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), are jointly installing a 130mld Waste Water Treatment Plant in Nagpur. The NMC will allocate land and subsidy under the JnNURM program and Mahagenco will pay balance amount for project and bear opex. The recycled water would be supplied to Koradi Thermal Plant.

According to Central Pollution Control Board, in tier 2 and 3, only about 20% of total waste water is being treated. Less than 20% WWTPs are being utilized at their 100% capacity i.e.only 5-10% capacity is utilized to treat water. 

This calls for more time being spent on understanding the engineering and technology so as to make the waste water treatment business in India more viable.

This panel had participation from Jal Board, State Government,. Technology Providers and Project Developers who shared their experiences, and brainstormed to build consensus on shaping an effective and integrated PPP models in Municipal Waste Water Management.

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