The Interceptor Sewer Network will bring sewage to 17 sewage treatment plants in Delhi but after treatment, the water quality will only be fit for horticultural purposes, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has conceded in an RTI reply.
The biological oxygen demand of the water to be discharged into Yamuna after treatment is a high 11-12 milligrams per litre, whereas, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), it has to be under 5 milligrams per litre to be “fit for bathing”.
Official records also show that Engineers India Limited, which is carrying out the project, will be intercepting only 108 of the 231 sub-drains that bring sewage into Yamuna.
This is apart from the 22 large drains, like Najafgarh, Shahadara and the supplementary drain.
According to the Delhi government, this ambitious project is the last solution left to clean the dead river after all else has failed.
As much as Rs 1,500 crore has already been spent over the years on some project or the other, attempting to clean the Yamuna.
“We do not have the technology in the Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) to turn sewage into water fit for bathing,” admitted Santosh Vaidya, Additional CEO, Delhi Jal Board (DJB).
“But from being very dirty, we can say the Yamuna will be less dirty.”
In other words, as much as Rs 1,357 crore of public money is being spent to lay a few pipes and bring sewage into STPs.
“But as far as cleaning the Yamuna is concerned, that is not happening. Not with this project,” said Himanshu Thakkar, head of South Asian Network of Dams, Rivers and People.
The DJB claims the cost of total cleaning of the water is too steep.
“While now, the cost of treatment is around 1Rs .5 crore per million gallons per day, that for high-end sophisticated treatment of the sewage is about Rs 7 crore,” Vaidya says.
“To fund that, we need a policy decision,” Vaidya adds.
“They are misleading the public into believing that this huge project will clean the Yamuna,” said Vinod Jain of NGO Tapas, which has been fighting a legal battle with the authorities to clean up the Yamuna for years.
“But what they are actually doing is wasting thousands of crores to just lay a few pipes,” Jain added.
What is the project?
The idea is to tap all the sewage generated in Delhi and channel it into the existing 17 sewage treatment plants.
Cost: Rs 1357 crore
What is wrong?
The project underestimates the amount of sewage Delhi generates, thus upsetting the whole theory behind catching all the sewage before discharging it into Yamuna. It treats only 108 of the 231 subdrains that carry sewage parallel to the main drains. It will not treat the entire 3800 million litres per day of sewage Delhi generates.
What can be done with Rs 1357 crore?
Rs 1357 crore is 4 times the cost of Chandraayan—India’s mission to moon.
It is twice the cost of building a new terminal at the IGI Airport.
It is 15 times the cost of setting up a terminal like New Delhi railway station.