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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

No more a universal cleanser

Domestic pollution is a major polluter of our rivers. And the ability to clean it is now beyond the capacity of the rivers themselves. As the installed capacity of sewage treatment falls short in all Indian cities, we are rapidly moving towards a situation where we shall quite literally have to wallow in our sewage.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2003 18:52 IST


Do you realise that flushing the 'crap' away in the morning has implication beyond the mere clearing of the pan? Sewage along with household waste now constitutes the second largest contributor to water pollution, especially in urban areas.

Even as cities explode and large populations settle in urban areas, the problem of sewage looms large. The fact that chief ministers of states now head their cities' water boards (Sheila Dikshit heads Delhi Jal Board while Chandrababu Naidu is the chairman of Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage) bears testimony to the fact that water and its various facets, now, occupy prime importance.

Clearly from an administrative perspective the scarcity of drinking water makes big news, but pollution of water bodies, though slow in showing its effects, is of equal significance. A look reveals the extent of the damage done.

Domestic household waste constitutes a large variety of dissolved and suspended impurities. It amounts to a very small portion of sewage by weight. But it is large in volume and contains impurities such as organic materials and plant nutrients that tend to rot. While plants and vegetables make for the organic waste, soaps, washing powders, etc make for the chemical waste.

But the major damage is done by sewage. Just to cite an example, the Yamuna at Agra Canal at Madanpur Khadar in Delhi, recorded a total of 1,83,00,000 coliforms per 100 ml of water (tested on 5.02.2002). While the feacal coliforms count was 4,11,000 per 100 ml! This is as per the Report on Water Quality of river Yamuna and Drains in Delhi Segment, brought out by Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi.

Across the country, cities are finding it difficult to keep abreast with demand for sewage treatment. Chennai for instance, has six sewage treatment plants in place but clearly these are not enough. The city administration has sanctioned the construction of four new treatment plants - Nesapakkam (40 million litre per day {MLD}), Koyambedu (60 MLD), Kodungaiyur (110 MLD) and Perungudi (54 MLD).