India’s great Sewage Crisis
India currently produces 72,368 million litres of sewage daily, out of which only 20,235 million litres are treated says the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report. Chandigarh is the only territory doing well in sewage management, treating188 million litres per day.
What is even more alarming is that India does not fully utilise its potential capacity to treat sewage. India’s current sewage systems and methods are able to treat 31,841 litres a day, and only 75% of the potential capacity is being utilised. According to a report 60% of the total sewage treatment systems installed in the country are only in 5 states, namely, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Delhi. Northeastern states like Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and the two island Union territories, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep do not even have sewage plants installed in their territories. Surprisingly, Bihar produces 2,276 million litres of sewage daily but has zero capacity to treat it even after having a sewage treatment plant in place.
What Is A Sewage Treatment Plant
Sewage Treatment Plant treats all wastewater by removing contaminants from the sewage. This leads to the discharge of treated water into the environment. The treated water can be used for irrigation, car washing, or other such activities that do not require potable water. Sewage is a collection of wastewater from businesses, households and industries. The objectives of sewage treatment plants are to prevent water pollution and promote water conservation.
Sewage Treatment: A Multiple-Choice Answer
There are plenty of sewage treatment processes to choose from. For example, there can be an onsite sewage treatment plant for buildings, societies and office parks or a combined treatment plant where sewage from significant territories like cities and states is treated together.
There are both natural and mechanical ways to treat sewage. A sewage treatment plant essentially pumps oxygen into the sewage to break down the contaminants by promoting the growth of pollutant eating bacteria. Sewage treatment aims to turn sewage into reusable or dischargeable water that will not pollute the environment.
Usually, in sewage treatment, water is first kept in a chamber until particles like oil, solid wastes and grease float up at the top, and the remaining solid wastes settle down in the chamber. After this water enters the second chamber where oxygen is pumped to help pollutant eating bacteria grow as these bacteria turn major pollutants into microscopic particles. Water is kept under observation in the last stage until the remaining impurities are settled down at the bottom. After that, the treated water is discharged and used for activities that do not require fresh water.
Aroha – Leading Upwards
AROHA has been promoting the installation of sewage treatment plants and using the treated water for afforestation.
Witnessing rapid urban development and environmental degradation in the form of depleting groundwater and experiencing hot summers in its operating city of Nagpur, Aroha has recognised the need for developing urban forests and water conservation. Aroha believes and envisions that increasing green cover and reusing treated water can help the city battle these harsh changes
India’s Biggest Treatment Plant coming up!
New Delhi will house India’s biggest sewage treatment plant in Okhla. The Okhla plant built on 110 acres will have the capacity to treat 564 million litres of sewage per day.
As per the authorities, the plant’s construction will be complete by the end of 2022. This plant will play a significant role in the cleaning process of the river Yamuna as it will trap vast amounts of sewage floating in the river. In addition, the plant will house a solar drying system and suction-based clarifiers. The treated water from this plant will also rejuvenate water bodies and lakes in the region.
Open Defecation Free - A Distant Dream?
Open defecation has been a huge problem throughout history in our country. It is mainly associated with people with the lowest incomes or no incomes at all and is witnessed not only in rural areas but in urban areas as well.
According to Unicef, In 2015, nearly half of India’s population did not have access to toilets and a proper sanitation system. As a result, people are forced to defecate in fields, railway tracks, forests and other public spaces. Moreover, Unicef also highlights that half of the world’s population with no choice but to defecate in the open belongs to India. What is more appalling is that one in every fifth school in India does not have clean working toilets made for girls. Thus, lack of hygiene and proper sanitation has led to a high neonatal mortality rate of 24 deaths for 1000 live births.
The ill-effects of a Hazardous Practice
Due to open defecation and poor sanitation practices, tons of faeces are introduced daily into the environment, leading to chances of direct contact of faeces with people.
Without proper sanitation, the risk of spreading diarrheal and waterborne diseases has become huge and as a result, according to an estimate by Unicef, nearly 100,000 children under the age of five have died due to diarrheal conditions.
Poor sanitation practices have also affected the sanitation workers as they suffer from many diseases while working. They are not provided with proper gear like gloves, masks and suits and when they enter dumps and drains, they are exposed to toxic gases and fumes that ultimately lead to their death.
Tertiary Treated Water - Transforming Water Usage
Mohali will get tertiary treated water for irrigation and cleaning cars. The aim is to reduce the consumption of potable water. The cost of setting up this treatment plant is estimated to be around 85 crores.
The Mohali treatment plant is inspired by a similar treatment plant set up by Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, which has provided tertiary water to the residents of Chandigarh for 100 rupees per month. This water can be used for all purposes that do not require potable water. This initiative can be a game-changer as 80% of India’s potable water is used in irrigation activities.
An Institution for Quality Drinking Water
The central government is opening up a first-ever institute that will solely work for uplifting the quality of drinking water and sanitation levels in India.
The National Centre For Drinking Water, Sanitation and Quality will open in Kolkata, West Bengal. This state of the art institute will find and implement ways to use health engineering to better water quality and sanitation activities. A committee of eight members, including people from public health departments and health engineering, has worked extensively to build the roadmap and vision of these apex institutes.