A committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) rapped the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) over its failure to create 14 decentralised sewage treatment plants (STPs) in Najafgarh for over four years.
Senior DJB officials told The Sunday Express the project has run into financial and land issues, resulting in little progress to control sewage entering drains leading into the Yamuna.
As per details shared with the Yamuna monitoring committee, the plan is to create low-capacity STPs in the area that will treat sewage upto 39 million gallons per day (MGD). A senior DJB official said the initial treatment capacity for all STPs was set at 40 MGD, based on predictions that Najafgarh would witness large-scale development over the years.
“These (development) plans never took off and the area’s population did not increase in accordance with what was predicted, which resulted in the flow of sewage staying lower,” the official said.
He added a follow-up study done by consultancy organisation WAPCOS found lower flow of sewage and put the total STP capacity at 32 MGD. Later, another study by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), which is also funding a part of the project, found the flow to be as low as around 10 MGD, the official said.
DJB Vice-Chairman Dinesh Mohaniya said, “When the NMCG reviewed that the capacity of proposed STPs was higher than what was required… it put a question mark on things.”
The proposed area for 14 STPs was also not available at the time the project was awarded in 2017. Mohaniya said land for only four plants has been acquired so far, out of the seven funded by the NMCG. The remaining area is owned privately and by the Gram Sabha and is yet to be allotted for the project, as per submissions made by the board to the monitoring committee.
Meanwhile, the agency involved in the construction of STPs submitted a revised financial proposal to the DJB as there was “no escalation clause” in the contract and it was not willing to work with the old rates.
The DJB has not decided if it should issue a new contract or engage the same agency. The board is also pursuing NMCG to fund the entire project, as per minutes of the meeting held between officials and the monitoring committee in late July, which was made public recently.
The minutes added, “The (committee) noted with regret the completely unprofessional manner in which the whole issue has been handled by the DJB resulting in zero progress even after a lapse of almost four years after the NGT’s judgement.”
The judgement referred to is the January 13, 2015 order passed by the green tribunal for rejuvenation of the Yamuna by 2017.
At present, sewage from the area enters drains that lead into the river. Officials, however, claim the problem is “not as big as projected”, and that sewage from the area contributes to only 2% of the pollution in the Yamuna.
“We need some experts to tell us what to do next. We have our in-house experts studying the project,” the DJB official said, adding the plan would move forward after the study is finished.