As Punjab battles twin problems of contamination of water bodies and waterlogging after incessant rains, The Indian Express talks to Local Bodies Minister Brahm Mohindra and asks him about his department’s plans to tackle these challenges.
How many Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) are there in Punjab. What is being done to bridge the gap between capacity and load of these STPs?
Total sewage generation in Punjab is 2110 million litres per day (MLD). At present, 96 STPs having capacity 1598 MLD have been constructed in 73 towns. For remaining untreated sewage, department has been working as per the action plan. Target date for completion is March 2022.
This means that on daily basis, 512 MLD sewer water is going untreated in different rivers of Punjab. Also, many STPs are non-operational. Recently Ludhiana mayor, commissioner and few others were booked for non-operational STPs. What is being done to check this?
Most STPs are working as per the design parameters for that specific plant. However, there are two issues in the working of the STPs. Some of the plants, especially in Ludhiana, are not able to operate as per the design standards because of mixing of industrial waste. Secondly, recently CPCB has revised the output parameters. To achieve the desired output parameters, some of the plants need upgradation. Provision of the same has been considered in the action plan with target of March, 2022.
This means that till 2022, water bodies will continue to be polluted. This water is used for domestic and irrigation purposes.
The Department of Local Bodies is implementing comprehensive plan for making sure that the water bodies/rivers do not get polluted. At present, there are approximately 96 STPs operating in the state and another 50 STPs are being planned to be set up in the state to end pollution of water bodies. The department is planning to upgrade many existing STPs. This step involves heavy capital expenditure and gestation periods. Therefore, the government is trying to ensure that such steps stop polluting water/river bodies completely by 2022. Various other agencies like the Department of Industries, GLADA, etc.. are also to undertake massive treatment of industrial waste, sullage falling under their areas of control.
Recently, Bathinda faced flood like situation for three days. Ludhiana too was flooded after single-day rain.
The cities in Punjab do not have a complete stormwater drainage system in place. However, few cities do have a partial stormwater drainage system in place which was laid long time back for a particular capacity, but urbanisation has rendered this outdated.The rough cost of improving this for Amritsar alone was worked out to Rs 200 crore in a study done by World Bank for the Local Bodies Department. There there are hurdles like topography which hinders drainage of rainwater and also excessive rainfall. For example, Bathinda normally receives 400 mm rainfall in Monsoons, but it received more than 200 mm rainfall on one particular day in July.
Will the department act tough against contractors or ULBs for poor maintenance of road gullies, intended to catch stormwater during the rainy season?
The maintenance of road gullies generally falls under the purview of ULBs within the city limits and strict instructions are issued to the ULBs to maintain them. Since in most of the cities the flow of rainwater and sullage water is combined therefore, the disposal of rainwater takes time, resulting in temporary slowdown in discharge of rainwater.
What is the department doing for rainwater harvesting?
In the building bye-laws, we has made rainwater harvesting mandatory for all new constructions above 100 sq yards.
What is department doing to tackle the problem right away?
The department has issued instructions to all ULBs to ensure adequate and regular pumping of the rainwater/sullage through its pumping stations in case of rain.The ULBs take adequate steps to tackle the situation. The rainwater is pumped out from all the cities in a time-bound manner. The ULBs take adequate steps to clean the sullage sewers regularly through super-suction machines or other modes.