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Gujarat 'fails' to come up with new sewage treatment plants: Apex Court deadline Feb 22

Counterview Desk
Top Gujarat-based environmental organization, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Vadodara, in a letter to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India, has complained that, despite frequent reminders and meetings with senior officials in Delhi and Gujarat, issues related to existing Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) across Gujarat and India as prime source of pollution of the rivers remain unresolved.
Signed by PSS activists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant and sanitation science engineers Upendra M Raval and Shakti Bhatt, the letter regrets that the authorities in in India continue to ignore the Supreme Court order February 22, 2017 in Writ Petition (Civil) No 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors), which makes it mandatory for making new STPs functional by February 22, 2020.
The letter, whose copies of the letter have been sent to the Central and state pollution control boards, and civic authorities of top municipal corporations of Gujarat, apart from senior authorities dealing with environmental issues in the Centre and the state, regrets that there is no effort to review the existing methods of treatment of sewage and exploring alternative methods of sewage treatment and management for planning and implementing new STPs.

Excerpts:

Letters in detail, dated December 5, 2018, and December 28, 2018, were sent with reference to non-functioning of the existing STPs across Gujarat and also dumping of untreated sewage into the Rivers and various other water bodies in Gujarat. There was no response at all from concerned authorities inspite of non-implementation of the Order, dated February 22, 2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors).
The only response, which we received, was from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Delhi office, and a special meeting was held on January 14, 2019 to discuss in detail about non-functional STPs, new STPs treatment methods. We presented alternative methods of sewage treatment in the meeting. The chairman of CPCB and concerned official agreed to visit Gujarat to see some of places where we tried to demonstrate the alternative methods of Sewage Treatments. Unfortunately, due to some reasons, the visit did not materialize.
It is agonizing to bring to light the fact that the concerned authorities of Gujarat State are not serious about the implementation of the Supreme Court Order, dated February 22, 2017, neither in letter nor in spirit. The timeline to make the existing STPs functional and to not allow untreated Sewage into the river and other water bodies has already been over in May 2017. The new timeline for making new STPs functional will be over on February 22, 2020.
This matter is not limited just to city corporations or municipalities of towns, but must also include smaller towns and villages. As per the Supreme Court Order:
“For the purpose of setting up of common effluent treatment plants, the concerned State Governments (including, the concerned Union Territories) will prioritize such cities, towns and villages, which discharge industrial pollutants and sewer, directly into rivers and water bodies... We therefore hereby direct, that 'sewage treatment plants' shall also be set up and made functional, within the time lines and the format, expressed hereinabove.” Even when we repeatedly approached a city corporation and a municipality to work out the detail plan for investigation, improvement of the existing STPs, discontinuation of the untreated Sewage into Rivers and water bodies, we receive neither adequate nor satisfactory response from these authorities.
The recent National Green Tribunal (NGT), Principal Bench, Delhi Order, dated December 6, 2019, in Original Application No 673 of 2018 clearly states:
“...100% treatment of sewage may be ensured as directed by this Tribunal vide order dated 28.08.2019 in O.A. No. 593/2017 by March 31, 2020 at least to the extent of in-situ remediation and before the said date, commencement of setting up of STPs and the work of connecting all the drains and other sources of generation of sewage to the STPs must be ensured.
“If this is not done, the local bodies and the concerned departments of the States/UTs will be liable to pay compensation as already directed vide order dated August 22, 2019 in the case of river Ganga i.e. Rs 5 lakh per month per drain, for default in in-situ remediation and Rs 5 lakh per STP for default in commencement of setting up of the STP.
“Timeline for completing all steps of action plans including completion of setting up STPs and their commissioning till March 31, 2021 in terms of order dated April 8, 2019 in the present case will remain as already directed. In default, compensation will be liable to be paid at the scale laid down in the order of this Tribunal dated August 22,2019 in the case of river Ganga i.e. Rs 10 lakh per month per STP.
“We further direct that an institutional mechanism be evolved for ensuring compliance of above directions. For this purpose, monitoring may be done by the Chief Secretaries of all the States/UTs at State level and at National level by the Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti with the assistance of NMCG and CPCB…”

You would candidly agree with us that the malfunctioning of the existing STPs across Gujarat and India are a prime source of pollution of the rivers and other water bodies, other than all kinds of industrial effluents. As per the available statistics, 70% of the sewage generated in urban India is not treated to acceptable standards.
Moreover, there is a 78.7% gap between sewage generation and installed sewage treatment capacity. Even with additional 1,742.6 MLD sewage treatment capacity that is under planning or construction stage, there will be a gap equal to 72.7 % in sewage treatment capacity India’s towns and cities.
Therefore, it is apparent that Indian towns, cities, and villages will continue to pollute their own and nearest possible Rivers, ponds, groundwater, and such by directly dumping untreated sewage, sullage, all kinds of other effluents, and even debris.
The conditions of these water sources and other related resources are worsening over the years. In turn, these worsening conditions, as we have been continuously noticing so far, will further deteriorate public health, local and regional ecosystems and the free services these ecosystems provide, local and regional economies and livelihood options for all, finances, administration and governance, and quality of all life. We all needlessly continue to suffer miserably.
As per a report published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in March 2015, the sewage generation from urban areas in the country is estimated at 61,948 million liters per day (MLD) or approximately 6,20,00,000 cubic meters = 24,800 Olympic size swimming pools every day. Against which a sewage treatment capacity of 23,277 MLD, or 37% of the sewage generation, is available. 
There is a large gap between the wastewater generated and actually so-called treated wastewater / sewage. And, these figures don’t include the sewage generated in non-urban areas. The conditions are absolutely very dire. 
Out of about 38,000 million litres per day of sewage, generated treatment capacity exists for only about 12,000 million liter per day
The 12th Five Year (2012-17) Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog) Report on Urban Development highlights that 4861 cities and towns in India lack even a partial centralized sewerage network and almost 50% of households in metropolitan city such as Bengaluru do not have sewerage connections.
According to the Swachhta Status Report 2016, released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) representing 99.3% of the population, 56.4% wards in India are reported to have sewer network for disposal of sewage. This indicates only a marginal improvement from around 50% sewer connections as per Census 2011 data.
Pollution of rivers is a continuous and ongoing process. Despite reports by CPCB and studies by other institutions, it is sadly evident that no one cares. It is the responsibility of the state governments/ concerned local bodies to set up facilities for proper and appropriate collection, transportation, and treatment of sewage for abatement of pollution of any and all (re)sources of water.
We have dried out rivers and other water (re)sources by overdrawing from or damming them and/or we have polluted these by indiscriminately dumping sewage, industrial effluent, and all kinds of solid and liquid wastes in the rivers and her interconnected system.
We have abused her by encroaching upon, contaminating her with all kinds of illegal encroachments, construction, and all kinds of “waste” materials, including but not limited to construction debris, municipal and industrial waste, dead carcasses, untreated and inadequately treated sewage and sullage. We have barely begun to recycle and reuse this invaluable (re)source for all life!
These indiscriminate abuses of various kinds of the rivers and other water (re)sources are, explicitly or implicitly, done or facilitated by governments at various levels through their policies and regulations or lack of these. In addition, lack of proper accountability coupled with stringent punishments aid in worsening the already dire situation. Corrupt practices at all levels exacerbate pollution of all kinds. We are all well aware of such ongoing phenomena.
So, it is worth asking: despite laws, programs, and assigned roles and responsibilities, why should such abuse go on? Why should so-called treated or untreated effluents and all kinds of waste be dumped into our Rivers and other water (re)sources at all?
Today’s reality is that almost all rivers and other water (re)sources the Indian cities and towns are polluted mainly by untreated and inadequately treated sewer, industrial effluents, and solid waste of all kinds. A majority of the STPs are not able to meet the prescribed norms and standards and, thus, they are the main source of river pollution.
Even as per the CPCB report, according to Status on Sewage Generation in Metropolitan Cities, Class - I Cities and Class - II Towns:
“Discharge of untreated sewage in water courses both surface and ground waters is the most important water polluting source in India. Out of about 38,000 million litres per day of sewage, generated treatment capacity exists for only about 12,000 million liter per day. Thus, there is a large gap between generation and treatment of wastewater in India.
“Even the treatment capacity existing is also not effectively utilized due to operation and maintenance problem. Operation and maintenance of existing STPs and pumping stations are 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.
“In a number of cities, the existing treatment capacity remains underutilized while a lot of sewage is discharged without treatment in the same city. Auxiliary power back-up facility is required at all the intermediate (IPS) & main pumping stations (MPS) of all the STPs.” 
That is why it is important to thoroughly review the current methods of treatments – mainly the STP method of wastewater treatment.
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Click HERE to read full letter

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