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Waste Water Management , Status, Challen

  May 31, 2023

Waste Water Management , Status, Challenges and Way Forward

Q. What is Waste Water?


  • About:
    • Wastewater is the polluted form of water generated from rainwater runoff and human activities and is also called sewage.
    • It is typically categorized by the manner in which it is generated—specifically, as domestic sewage, industrial sewage, or storm sewage (stormwater).
    • Normally, raw sewage dumped into a water body can clean itself through a natural process of stream cleaning and self-purification.
    • But the rise in population, as well as large-scale urbanization, has led to an increase in sewage discharge that far exceeds the rate of natural purification.
    • The excess nutrients thus generated cause eutrophication in the water body and gradual deterioration of the water quality.
      • Eutrophication is the process of a water body becoming overly enriched with minerals and nutrients which induces excessive growth of algae or algal bloom, thereby, leading to oxygen depletion of the water body.
  • Waste Water Treatment:
    • Wastewater treatment, also called sewage treatment, is the removal of impurities from wastewater, or sewage, before it reaches aquifers or natural bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans.
    • On-site Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) treat and purify wastewater and render it suitable for reuse.
      • STPs remove contaminants from waste water primarily from household sewage.


Q. What is the Status of Waste Water Management in India?


  • About:
    • According to a report published by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2021, India’s current water treatment capacity is 27.3% and the sewage treatment capacity is 18.6% (with another 5.2 % capacity being added).
      • Although India’s waste and sewage treatment capacity is higher than the global average of around 20%, it is far from adequate, and without swift measures and not scaling up the sewage treatment capacity may have serious consequences.
    • As per government statistics, 62.5% of wastewater in urban India remained untreated or partially treated.
    • According to a 2019 research report, most of the sewage treatment plants established under the Ganga Action Plan and Yamuna Action Plan are not working, and out of the 33000 million litres per day (MLD) of waste generated, only 7000 MLD is collected and treated.
  • Regulation:
    • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, (Amended in 1988)
      • This legislation was introduced to provide for the prevention and control of water pollution and the maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water.
    • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977, (Amended in 2003)
      • It aims to provide for the levy and collection of a cess on water consumed by persons carrying on certain industries and by local authorities.
    • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
      • It empowers the Central government to prescribe sewage and effluent discharge standards, investigate and ensure compliance, and conduct research.
      • This Act applies to all kinds of environmental pollution, including water, land, air, and noise.
  • Government Initiatives:
    • The Indian government shifted its focus to solid waste, sludge and greywater management under the Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 (SBM 2.0).
      • Following a sustained focus on achieving Open Defecation-Free (ODF) status, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) developed detailed criteria for cities to achieve ODF+, ODF++ and Water+ statuses.
    • Under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) Mission, sewerage & septage management projects were launched by MoHUA.


Q. What are the Challenges in the Waste Water Management?


  • Schedule 7 of the Indian constitution identifies water as a State matter, but it is explicitly subjected to the provisions mentioned in the Union List.
    • It enables the Parliament to legislate on regulating and developing inter-state waters in the larger public interest while the State retains the autonomy to frame laws regarding the use of water within the State on matters like water supply, irrigation, drainage and embankments, water storage, etc.
    • This disintegrated approach to wastewater and its fallouts can also be seen within the States. The governance of water resources is further fragmented at local levels, rural and urban, as per the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment acts.
    • These constitutional mechanisms have resulted in power imbalances between the Centre and the States, creating federal jurisdictional ambiguity.
      • Particularly, in the case of wastewater management, one State’s inaction affects the interests of one or more other States and causes disputes.
  • While centralised wastewater treatment solutions require a well-developed network of interconnected sewers and drainage for the wastewater to be collected in a central location. This makes them expensive, labour-intensive, and time-consuming.


Q. What is the Way Forward?


  • Although a decentralised approach is needed for better assessment and redressal of wastewater issues, but for the efficient functioning of policies and overall development of water bodies, water governance needs to be recognized at all levels.
    • In this regard, wastewater must be seen not only as an environmental pollution issue but as a water sector matter to be addressed coherently by all central, state, and local governments.
  • It is imperative to complement centralised treatment plants with cheaper alternative solutions such as:
    • Decentralised wastewater treatment plants can be set up in small townships, urban and rural clusters, gated colonies, factories, and industrial parks. They can be installed directly on-site, thus treating the wastewater directly at its source.
    • Bioremediation utilises microbes such as fungi and bacteria in order to break down pollutants and hazardous effluents.
    • Phytoremediation refers to the use of plants and associated soil microbes to reduce the concentrations or toxic effects of contaminants and has been proven quite effective at cleaning lakes and ponds throughout the country.