About 46% of Delhi, where nearly 4.5 million people live, has no sewerage system. In these areas, filth flows freely through stormwater drains, an expert committee formed by the National Green Tribunal has said in its report.
Since these drains are outside Delhi’s sewerage network, the untreated waste enters the Yamuna. And because of the sewage, these drains are lined and covered, which is a violation of laws and can cause flooding. This also hampers recycling of millions of litres of stormwater and destroys peripheral greenery and biodiversity.
The panel says a round 9,500km of sewer line is to be laid in these parts at a massive cost of Rs. 19,500 crore. “Even if the government allocates Rs. 1,000 crore every year, the problem will end only in 20 years,” the report says. However, by that time there would be cost escalation and greater sewage pressure owing to population growth.
Prof AK Gosain of IIT-Delhi, one of the panel members, has also questioned the Delhi government’s ambitious Rs. 2,454crore project to intercept sewage before it flows into the Yamuna from three major drains.
“A majority of natural drains which are supposed to carry storm water will remain polluted even then. First, we must make sure that storm water drains and those carrying sewage are independent of each other,” he said in the report. Gosain is also leading a team which is currently preparing a drainage master plan for Delhi.
“Why can’t the city managers try to solve the problem on a war footing? If this city could find Rs. 80,000 crore in the name of national prestige to host a 10-day sporting event (read Commonwealth Games), then
MANOJ MISRA, petitioner what prevents it from finding around Rs. 20,000 crore for a total and efficient sewerage network in the nation’s capital city?” said Manoj Misra, petitioner in the current NGT case.
Misra said, “Let the city managers set a five-year target of total sewerage coverage in the city. Because any longer period target is not only going to escalate cost but also the enormity of the problem.”
The committee, which, apart from Gosain, only has government officials, has failed to fix a fine for those polluting these drains. The NGT had asked it to quantify what should be levied on polluters.
“The authorities had found the existing fines inadequate to prevent abuse of storm water drains. Why the report did not quantify the fine is beyond our comprehension,” said Misra.