Only a sewerage overhaul can save Delhi

  • Darpan Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 21, 2014 00:42 IST

Delhi may face a civic and health disaster if remedial measures are not taken immediately to manage its waste water, Delhi’s first sewerage master plan has warned.

The plan, uploaded on Delhi Jal Board’s website for suggestions, states that because of ground water contamination, water-borne diseases (such as typhoid fever, cholera and hepatitis) may take the form of an epidemic, resulting in a disaster.

“The water quality in the Yamuna is two notches below even the normal bathing standards,” says the draft report that aims to fix Delhi’s failing wastewater management system and reduce pollution in the Yamuna by building pipe networks and clean-up centres.

The Rs 19,500-crore report plan promises to tackle contamination of surface and groundwater as well as soil — all of which are major public health risks.

The city’s 35 wastewater treatment plants can at best deal with only 40% of the total sewage generated every day because of their inadequate number, blocked trunk sewer lines and half the city — mostly unauthorised colonies — lacking a sewerage system. The rest of the discharge flows directly into the Yamuna through rainwater drains, killing both natural systems.

Damage to stormwater drains causes urban flooding during monsoon and reduces groundwater recharge. An IIT-Delhi team, led by professor AK Gosain, is working on a separate master plan for stormwater drains, which should only carry rainwater.

“The river is suffering not just from untreated sewer from unauthorised and unsewered areas but also from raw sewer entering illegally the storm water system from already areas where sewer lines already exist. This needs to be fixed,” said environmentalist Manoj Misra.

“The Yamuna enters Delhi near village Palla in the north. Further, there’s a barrage at Wazirabad where water is taken out by Delhi Jal Board for treatment and supply to households, meeting 70% of Delhi’s water needs. In dry season, no water is allowed to flow beyond Wazirabad. Whatever flows, is waste water,” the report says.

The plan admits that Delhi’s population has grown by more than 300% since 1971, up from 4 million then to 18 million now.

But sewerage network augmentation, like in other infrastructure areas, has not kept pace. The blueprint proposes integration of various ongoing sewerage projects.

“But this cannot wait for 2031. It must be done at most in another 5 years to meet the Prime Minister’s 2019 deadline for a Nirmal (clean and healthy) Bharat. For this to actually happen, the city will need to provide Delhi Jal Board with powers and resources like those of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation,” said Misra.

“Unsewered areas, mostly unauthorised colonies, of Delhi face congestion and have inadequate space for laying pipelines. An interceptor project will be a short-term measure before the problem is addressed with modern technologies,” said a DJB official.

The Rs 1962-crore interceptor project involves laying parallel channels along the three major drains.

These will intercept sewage from several smaller drains that flow into these three drains. The sewage will be treated and released back into the main drains before they meet the Yamuna.

“The project will be complete by the middle of next year and reduce 70%of the sewage pollution in the river,” said the official.

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