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First-of-its-kind? 'Eco-friendly, low cost' sewage treatment system installed in Gujarat

Counterview Desk

Following the installation of the Unconventional Decentralized Multi-Stage Reactor (UDMSR) for sewage treatment, a note on what is claimed to be the  first-of-its-kind technology said, the treated sewage from this system “can be directly utilized for agricultural purposes”, even as proving to be a “saviour in the times of water crisis.”
Developed by Dr Upendra D Patel, professor at the Civil Engineering Department, Faculty of Technology and Engineering, Maharaja Sayajirao University Baroda, the note said, the technology” its operation and maintenance “does not require any daily computations or analyses, and hence, no skilled labour is required”, and “the only energy requirement lies with the operation of pumps”, which can be done with the help of solar panels, which may be “installed above the reactor.”
“UDMSR is a low-cost and reliable treatment system for domestic sewage requiring minimal energy and supervision”, the note contends. The installation of the system took place in village Luna, Taluka Padra, District Vadodara, Gujarat, in the presence of Gujarat Pollution Control Board Member Secretary DM Thaker, Regional Director Prasoon Gargava, and prominent environmentalist Rohit Prajapati.

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The status of treatment of sewage in our country is dismal. Estimated Sewage generation in India is 72,368 MLD. Total capacity of installed and operational STPs in our country is about 26,869 MLD, which is 37.1% of total sewage generated. This means that ~63% of sewage generated in India does not have any system for its treatment and hence disposed untreated. Out of the operational STPs, less than 40% achieve the prescribed norms for the discharge of treated sewage. (Source: National Inventory of Sewage Treatment Plants, CPCB, March 2021)
No reliable and technically appropriate systems exist for the collection and treatment of domestic sewage in rural areas. Raw domestic sewage in most of the villages flows in open channels and ultimately ends up in a nearby pond or river. This causes significant deterioration of water quality which, renders these water sources unfit for any use. 
Treatment of sewage is not very challenging. Sewage contains easily biodegradable organic matter that can be removed in a biological treatment system. 
Dr Upendra Patel
Modern treatment systems such as Activated Sludge Process, Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket, Sequential Batch Reactors, etc. can efficiently treat large volumes of domestic sewage to the required disposal norms. However, substantial power consumption, high installation and operating cost, and necessity of skilled operators are the main deterrents to application of such systems at rural level.
A Sewage Treatment System suitable for rural areas must: (1) be easy to install and expand, (2) have low cost of installation and operation, (3) be reliable and efficient and (4) require minimal skilled supervision.

Introduction of Technology

The Unconventional Decentralized Multi-Stage Reactor (UDMSR) is based on the principle of attached growth. It consists of multiple segments filled with a light-weight but highly porous medium such as polyurethane cubes. A specific microbial film is grown over the surface of medium. Domestic sewage after the removal of floating impurities and grit is fed at the top of the reactor. During this downward motion of wastewater, organic matter is removed by the microbes immobilized on medium. No mechanical/electrical energy is required to supply oxygen. The treated effluent can be used for irrigation or groundwater recharge. 
This technology is developed by Dr. Upendra D. Patel engaged as a Professor at the Civil Engineering Department, Faculty of Technology and Engineering, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. He is a PhD in Environmental Science and Engineering from The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. He has been researching on this technology for the last 10 years. 
The UDMSR can be reliably used for the treatment of domestic sewage in rural areas. The design of UDMSR is modular and each individual segment can be removed for cleaning/maintenance. Thus, the operation and maintenance of UDMSR do not require any daily computations or analyses, and hence, no skilled labor is required. The only energy requirement lies with the operation of pumps. In areas with scarcity of electricity, solar panels may be installed above the reactor. Thus, UDMSR is a low-cost and reliable treatment system for domestic sewage requiring minimal energy and supervision.
It is advantageous to use UDMSR in a decentralized manner by providing different systems at different locations (serving a part of population) rather than collecting all sewage at one place through a huge network of sewers.

Installation and Operation cost of UDMSR system

The exact installation cost of the pilot plant is yet to be derived; however, the cost of installation will vary from Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 40,000 per KLD exclusive of land cost and land preparation cost. The cost of operation will vary from Rs. 300 to 400 per KLD per month for electricity (i.e. Rs 7,500 to Rs. 10,000 per month), and Rs. 15,000 per month towards the operator’s salary, excluding the maintenance costs of pumps and other equipment. 

25 KLD UDMSR system installed at Village Luna, Ta. Padra, Di. Vadodara, Gujarat

The pilot-scale UDMSR system set up in the village Luna is designed to treat 25 KLD of sewage servicing a population of about 400-500 persons. The design of UDMSR is modular in nature, i.e. it can be modified easily to accommodate more flow in the near future. The plant is running continuously since December 2023 and has since treated about 1.4 million liters of sewage with effluent COD and BOD ranging from 10-20 mg/L and 2-3 mg/L. The plant is also tested at 1.5 and 2 times the design flow capacity and its performance is found to be very consistent.
The system is installed with the financial help from Padra Industries Association and Farmers Action Group. Shri Pravin Rabadiya, Shri R. C. Patel and Shri Jayesh Patel of Padra Industries Association assumed the responsibility of installation of the system. Mr. Sanjay Gohil of Archroma now looks after the day-to-day monitoring of the system. Mr. Bhailal Solanki, a farmer living adjacent to the site is involved in the operation of the system.

Memorandum of Understanding

In a meeting followed by demonstration of the working of lab-scale UDMSR on 26.09.2022 by Dr. Upendra Patel at MSU-Baroda, and several subsequent meetings of Shri Rohit Prajapati of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti with the Chairperson and Member Secretary of GPCB, it was decided that GPCB will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MSU-Baroda with Prof. Upendra D. Patel as a nodal officer to disseminate the UDMSR technology. 

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