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No dilution, new rules concentrate on strict measures to treat sewage

In August 2018, Pune resident Nitin Shankar Deshpande challenged the MoEF’s decision to dilute the norms in 2017, despite the stricter norms implemented by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) previously.

mumbai Updated: May 04, 2019 00:44 IST
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No dilution, (Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)

After a rap from the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the Union environment ministry, which had diluted norms for treatment of industrial and domestic sewage, has made the rules stricter. The new order was passed on April 30 and made public on Thursday.

According to the revised norms, after treatment, the level of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) – oxygen needed for survival of aquatic life – has been set at 10 milligram for a litre, from 20 mg/l; total suspended solids (dry-weight of particles trapped by a filter in any water body) in the treated sewage has to be less than 50 mg/l, from the earlier 100mg/l. The level of faecal coliform (FC) — human and animal excreta per 1,000 litre — has been revised to less than 100, from the earlier 1,000.

In August 2018, Pune resident Nitin Shankar Deshpande challenged the MoEF’s decision to dilute the norms in 2017, despite the stricter norms implemented by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) previously. During its hearing on Thursday, the NGT principal bench comprising chairperson justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, judicial member Justice K Ramakrishnan, and expert member Dr Nagin Nanda made the order public. “There is no justification for non-application of such standards for seven years for the existing sewage treatment plants (STPs). We direct that the standards be applied not only to new STPs, but also to existing/under-construction STPs without any delay, and giving seven-year time stands disapproved,” the bench said.

The rules are significant for the state as 54 of the most polluted river stretches in India (323) are in Maharashtra, which is the highest in India, with cases related to pollution in Mithi, Ulhas, Waldhuni, Patalganga and other rivers being heard by the Supreme Court, Bombay high court (HC) and NGT. In Mumbai, water quality along coastal areas is much higher than standards directed by the tribunal.

In January, the NGT formed an executive committee consisting of members of the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), and scientists from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and Roorkee to frame stricter norms to treat sewage. “There is no scientific justification offered for diluting the norms for these areas (other cities and deep marine outfall), in which a majority of country’s population resides. Major population will be affected by diluted standards and only persons in mega and metropolitan cities will have comparatively better standards without any valid reason or distinction,” the bench said, adding the standards recommended for mega cities will also apply to rest of the country.

“Following the environment ministry’s notification from 2017, we were following the diluted norms. However, as the notification was stayed by NGT earlier this year, for the past three months, stringent rules for sewage treatment have been levied for the entire state,” said YB Sontakke, joint director (water quality), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board. “The union environment ministry was not treating river pollution as a crisis being faced by India, as they blindly relaxed pollutant discharge limits for sewage treatment in 2017. This is a historic judgment as all corporations, councils, and district departments will have to design and update sewage treatment facilities as per new standards now,” said Nitin Shankar Deshpande

First Published: May 04, 2019 00:44 IST