Waste Is Winning – Cities’ effluent management is way behind target and a health hazard. Eco-friendly, inexpensive solutions exist

Source: The post is based on the article “Waste Is Winning – Cities’ effluent management is way behind target and a health hazard. Eco-friendly, inexpensive solutions exist” published in The Times of India on 28th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS – 3: Pollution.

Relevance: About sewage treatment in India.

News: Recently, nodal pollution body, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has found all 18 drains of Delhi that empty treated wastewater into the Yamuna fall short of chemical standards mandated before any drain reaches the river. It also found that around 22% of Delhi’s untreated waste ends up in Yamuna.

About India’s Wastewater generation and sewage treatment capacity

As per a Niti Aayog report, “of 72,368 million litres of urban wastewater that India generates daily, only 28% is treated.” That means 72% of wastewater is untreated and “maybe disposed of in rivers/lakes/groundwater”.

At least three laws, over 10 government policies and missions are functioning since 1985 to tackle India’s wastewater, polluted and dead rivers problems. But still, India is not completely addressed the issue.

What are the contributing factors to poor sewage treatment in India?

Wastewater, and sewage treatment in India is abysmal. This is because a) India lacks the legal and political will, b) Fewer funds are allocated for sewage treatment, c) Limited availability of land in urban areas for sewage treatment plants. Further, residents are also in fear of an economic hit as the odour and aesthetics lower land prices in their area, d) The regulations are not strict and there is an absence of an oversight framework, e) Lack of civic awareness about the problem, f) Due to urbanisation, the influx of migrants into cities has increased manifold and resultant population growth in urban areas and g) Illegal dumping, poorly managed drainage systems, multiple leakages, and conventional technology in existing treatment plants are other issues.

All this led to the widening of the gap between sewage treatment capacities and sewage generated.

What should be done to improve sewage treatment in India?

1) Some Chinese cities addressed sewage treatment by building plants underground. This can be done in India as well, 2) India needs to prioritise waste management before it starts constructing wetlands and urban water bodies, c) India should utilise the decentralised wastewater plants as they are an inexpensive and ecologically sustainable way to address the problem.

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