Skip to main content

How Indore turned into water minus city after authorities 'managed' Water Plus title

Water harvester cleaning up hyacinth from an Indore river
By Rahul Banerjee* 
Recently, the city of Indore was declared the first Water Plus city in India under the Swachh Sarvekshan programme of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development for its ostensibly exemplary waste water management. However, the reality is quite different as a detailed study of the prevailing wastewater management situation in the city shows.
The Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) is spread over an area of 276 sq kms with a population of about 3.1 million in 2021 (IMC, 2021). The Rivers Khan and Saraswati drain the city of Indore and a considerable part of the sewage would earlier also drain into these rivers. 
Over the past few years, a massive programme has been undertaken to tap these open drains and outfalls, numbering in thousands, that were discharging untreated wastewater into these rivers, by laying sewers along their banks and then directing the wastewater to seven new Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) constructed at intervals along these rivers.
Currently there are about 1100 kms of sewers in the city. There was already a group of STPs downstream of the city at Kabitkhedi along the river Khan to treat the wastewater from the sewerage system laid in the city but they were partially treating only about 100 Million Liters Per Day (MLD) of the total wastewater of 320 MLD or so that is generated as there were not enough sewers to carry the wastewater to them.
Now, with the tapping of all the thousands of outfalls and treatment of the wastewater in the seven new STPs constructed along the rivers and greater flow to the Kabitkhedi group of STPs as a consequence of new sewers being laid, 312 MLD of wastewater is being partially treated and some of this is being reused in washing roads and in maintaining the various gardens and parks while the rest is being released into the rivers.
While the improvement in water supply from the Narmada River and the treatment and reuse of wastewater has made the city best in water management in India, this has been achieved at a huge capital cost of thousands of crores in laying sewer lines, tapping outfalls and augmenting treatment capacity.
Expenditure on sewerage and STPs was less in 2017-18 when the sewer lines were less in length and the STPs were not being run as much. In 2018-19 the expenditure increased because more STPs began functioning and the shortfall in drainage cess increased to 48.8 percent. The expenditure paradoxically fell in 2019-20 and so the shortfall was less at 13.5 percent.
This was because the STPs were not run regularly in that year as will become clear later. Faced with this shortfall in cost recovery, the IMC announced a hike in water taxes, to double of what they were earlier and introduced a new sewerage tax to become effective from April 2021. However, this was immediately met with opposition from the citizens and both the ruling party and opposition politicians pressurised the IMC to withdraw this proposed hike.
Data clearly show that the provision of centralised sewerage services on a regular basis is economically unsustainable. The finances of sewerage and sewage treatment underline this economic unviability of centralised systems.
Clearly, the IMC is underspending by a very large proportion on sewerage and treatment and especially on treatment. This becomes clear once we study the actual operation of the STPs in Indore. The total installed capacity of STPs in Indore is 402 MLD which can easily treat the 320 MLD of wastewater that is generated in the city. However, in reality this is not taking place due to shortage of funds and all the STPs are being run at much lower than design capacity and most of the wastewater is being bypassed.
The first STP is on the River Saraswati in Bijalpur above a dam that had earlier been built on it and this is supposed to treat all the wastewater from the part of the city above it. The picture below shows that the dam below the STP is badly eutrophied with water hyacinth growth indicating that it is treating only part of the wastewater and bypassing the rest either untreated or partially treated into the dam.
The next STP to which the tapping sewers along the River Saraswati and one of its tributaries is directed is at Nahar Bhandara and this too is bypassing most of the wastewater coming to it as can be seen in picture of the chamber through which water is supposed to come into the STP.
The flow of wastewater from the tapping sewers in the upper reaches of the River in Bijalpur and Nahar Bhandara is not much and so even after bypassing the wastewater the river isn’t that polluted. However, near the city centre which is known as Rajwada because of the Holkar king’s palace situated there, the two Rivers Saraswati and Khan meet. Here the flow of untreated wastewater is considerable and so the water is very polluted.
As the combined River Khan flows down the city it gets more untreated waste water and reaches the main STP on its banks at Kabitkheri. Here the wastewater from the sewers of the city is once again only partially treated and mostly by passed to add to the polluted water of the river as is evident from the picture below of foaming dark polluted flow.
Test results establish that the water in the river at Kabitkhedi is highly polluted and not only is secondary treatment not being done properly in the STPs but tertiary treatment of chlorination is also not being properly done and that is why there is such a high level of coliform bacteria in the water.
How then did Indore get the Water Plus certification then? All the STPs were run at full capacity a fortnight prior to and during the visit of the Swachh Sarvekshan team so that the water was clean in the rivers! Aqua harvesters were used to clean up the water hyacinth from the rivers (as shown in the picture in the beginning). Once the evaluation was done and the team had left, the STPs were put back into the bypass mode and Indore became water minus again!
Thus, even after making huge investments in thousands of crores in tapping of outfalls and laying sewer lines and setting up STPs, due to a serious lack of financial resources, these investments are not yielding the desired results as the STPs are not being run properly and most of the wastewater is being released untreated into the rivers. 
The claims of reuse of water to the tune of 100 MLD are also false. Not only is the quantity of tertiary treated water much less but also enough lines have not been laid to carry this water to reuse points. 
Moreover, a new problem has emerged as a consequence of tapping all the outfalls into the rivers. During monsoons these outfalls used to discharge the storm water into the rivers. However, sewer lines that have been laid to carry the flow from these outfalls have been designed only to carry the wastewater flow in the rest of the year and not the storm water in the monsoons. 
So, even small showers are resulting in waterlogging in the catchment areas of the outfalls and when it rains heavily, these areas remain severely waterlogged for days on end and become water plus in a different sense altogether!
Therefore, instead of making false claims the IMC should abandon these costly centralised systems of waste water management and raise awareness about decentralised systems which are much less costly and can be done by the well-off individual households, commercial entities and government institutions which contribute 90 percent of the wastewater, on their own without burdening the IMC which can then be left to provide for the poorer households only.
---
*Edited for style. All pix by the author. Click here for references. Source: South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People 

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

India reaches 8th of 10 stage genocide: US Muslim advocacy group raises 'alert'

By Hena Zuberi* India has reached the 8th stage of genocide with the persecution of the Muslim community. Stating this, Professor Greg Stanton, who heads Genocide Watch, declared a Genocide Emergency Alert for India today at Justice For All online briefing.

Anti-poor? 'Cumbersome' to link aadhaar, voter ID for people sans internet access

By Prashant Kumar Chaudhary, Ajit Kumar Jaiswal*  At present, technology plays an increasingly crucial part in modelling human existence by offering a variety of solutions to many of the challenges individuals confront in the real world. As a result, every branch of research works to provides means to solve these difficulties precisely and efficiently. The Central government works along the same lines as well.

'Dargah site was a temple': Claim in Gujarat following post-Babri verdict demands in UP

By Rajiv Shah  Will Gujarat also see demands to replace mosques and dargahs with Hindu temples? It would seem so, if a new fact-finding team conclusion is any indication. Apprehending the “danger” of communal conflagration, it has cited the claim on a 15th century dargah was originally a Hindu temple – allegedly quite on line with what has been happening in UP following the Supreme Court verdict on Babri Mosque.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Why Church in India today needs a Rutilio Grande, martyred for stance on social justice

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  For the people of El Salvador, January 22, 2022 will be more than just a red-letter day. Three of their sons, Jesuit Fr Rutilio Grande and his two lay associates 72-year-old Manuel Solorzano and 15-year-old Nelson Rutilio Lemus (and Italian Franciscan missionary Fr Cosme Spessotto who was also martyred) will be beatified in San Salvador.

Sweden-backed study: India won't achieve 2030 UN goals, officials can't recognise SDG

By Rajiv Shah  A Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC)-sponsored study, carried out by the advocacy group Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) India, seeking to analyse the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No 12, Responsible Consumption and Production (RCP), has regretted, it is "very unlikely" India will achieve any of the targets of SDG 12 by 2030 "unless some serious measures are taken by the government to reverse the present trend."

Gender insensitive? Model Gujarat's cyclone relief package ignores 40,000 fisherwomen

CSJ volunteers talking to fisherwomen By Rajiv Shah  A Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) note on the Gujarat government’s compensation package to the victims of the devastating Tauktae cyclone, which hit the coastal belt of Saurashtra's Amerli, Rajula, Una, and Gir-Somnath districts in May 2021, has said, the relief offered was so terribly inadequate that many of the fisherfolk were not able to fish for the rest of the year.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Haridwar call for genocide direct result of Modi 'tolerating' Islamophobic policies

By Our Representative  A high-level briefing organised in Washington DC, in which as many as 17 human rights and interfaith organizations -- including Amnesty International USA, Genocide Watch and Hindus for Human Rights, apart from several persons in their individual capacity -- participated, has come down heavily on what they called "Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Islamophobic policies and tolerance of open incitement by Hindu extremists for a genocide of Muslims."