Since 2011, housing societies in Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad with more than 80 or more flats have been mandated by the state government to set up standalone sewage treatment plants (STPs) to treat the sewage produced there. However, in response to an RTI query filed by The Indian Express, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has stated that 19 of the 30 such STPs inspected by the Board last year were found to be non-operational. This puts a question mark on the move, which was introduced to reduce the load on STPs run by the municipal bodies, and to stop the discharge of untreated sewage directly into rivers.
Located at the tail-end of the drainage system of municipal corporations, STPs treat the sewage generated by the entire city, before it is discharged into rivers. However, in Pune, about 30 per cent of the sewage continues to be discharged directly into the river without being treated. The STPs at housing societies were supposed to tackle this problem, and such societies would have got a tax rebate.
While the state government grants the environmental clearance for setting up STPs, the MPCB has the task of inspecting these STPs at regular intervals.
MPCB officials claimed that the lack of coordination between civic bodies makes it difficult for them to ensure that STPs are operational in all housing societies.
In the last one year, MPCB has conducted inspections at 30 housing societies, of which 19 were found to have non-operational STPs. The MPCB had even issued directions for taking legal action against three societies.
Seema Salve, chairman of the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) Standing Committee, said the lack of regular inspections was due to a policy lacuna in the matter. While the state government issues environmental clearance for STPs, no fixed guidelines are in place for regular supervision of these plants.
“The plants in question are on private land, so the corporations don’t have the right to inspect them,” she said.
Salve claimed that the MPCB, which has the rights of supervision as well as the right to initiate action against the defaulting societies, has not been stringent. “We have started communicating with the state government, asking for supervisory power over the STPs in the housing societies,” she said.
In case the state government agreed, the civic body would be in a position to offer technical support to housing societies to run their STPs efficiently, said Salve.