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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Swachh Survekshan: Why did Punjab civic bodies fare poorly? Poor drainage, not enough STPs, frequent transfers

For solid waste management, there are two centralised plants -- in Ludhiana and Bathinda -- but even in these cities, the waste is not fully segregated.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana | Updated: August 22, 2020 3:20:48 am
Swachh Survekshan, Punjab civic bodies, Poor drainage, STPs, Punjab news, Indian express newsA flooded kitchen in Abohar on Friday. (Express photo)

Punjab generates 2,110 million litres per day (MLD) of sewer discharge. Yet, as of now only 1,628 MLD is treated every day by its sewerage treatment plants (STPs), many of which often conk off, while plans to build more STPs to increase capacity by 910 MLDs are still in the pipeline.

For solid waste management, there are two centralised plants — in Ludhiana and Bathinda — but even in these cities, the waste is not fully segregated. These could be contributing factors to why Punjab’s urban local bodies (ULBs) failed to attain top ranks in the Swachh Survekshan Mission this year. Abohar got the tag of the third dirtiest city of India with a population of less than 10 lakh, while Budhlada was adjudged the dirtiest municipal council in North India.

Poor drainage

On Friday, Abohar remained waterlogged due to poor drainage even after more than 15 hours after rain stopped. Ajoy Sharma, CEO, Punjab Municipal Infrastructure and Development Company (PMIDC), and chairman of the Water and Sewerage Board, told The Indian Express, “The reason for poor drainage in the cities after mild rainfall is that in most cities of Punjab, the sewer system has been laid to carry domestic waste water only. If a combined sewer system (domestic as well storm runoff) is laid, then not only will the cost increase manifold, but the space to lay the same is not available, specially in the narrow streets of old city areas.”

Inadequate segregation of dry, wet waste

Sharma added, “As per Solid Waste Management (SWM) rules, 2016, dry and wet waste have to be segregated. All urban local bodies (ULB)s have their own decentralised processing/composting units for wet waste, many of them have set up Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and some are in the process of doing so. Two centralised plants — one each at Bathinda and Ludhiana — are functional and one at Amritsar is under process. “Meanwhile, Ludhiana, which is the biggest corporation of Punjab, has a SWM, but segregation is still not 100 per cent, as is the case with Bathinda, because one can see dry and wet garbage mixed on road sides at a number of locations in both cities.

Frequent transfers

Talking about the poor performance of Abohar Municipal Corporation, Budhlada Municipal Council and many other municipal councils in Swachh Survekshan 2020 results, Sharma said, “Though the state as a whole improved its ranking at the national level and retained its first rank at zonal level, yet if some of the cities performed poorly, there are some reasons.

The poor performance of Abohar MC is (due to) frequent transfer of officers and long strike of workers. The reasons are similar for other poor performers. Every city/town needs a champion either at political level or executive level. When none of them are there, cities are bound to fare poorly despite so much support from the state.”

“In Abohar, Jagsir Singh Dhaliwal, executive officer (EO) Municipal Council, stayed from April 1, 2019, to June 30, 2019, while another, Gurdas Singh, stayed from July 1, 2019, to November 19, 2019. Later, SDM Abohar was given additional charge,” he added.

However, Abohar now has a municipal commissioner as it is now a corporation and not a council. The commissioner came just two months ago. In Budhlada as well, since January 2019 till June 10, 2020, six EOs had been transferred and now Vijay Kumar Jindal, who came on June 10, 2020, is still in Budhlada. The average tenure of EOs in most of the poorly performing ULBs is of 2-3 months, revealed information from local bodies. The other poorly performing ULBs are Batala, Khanna, Kapurthala, Jagraon etc.

Asked what steps are being taken to bring changes in solid waste and sewer disposal, Sharma said, “115 STPs of capacity 1,628 MLD have been installed and another 132 STPs of capacity 910.5 MLD are in the pipeline, of which 31 STPs of capacity 306.5 MLD are in construction stage and 101 STPs of 604 MLD are in tendering/detailed project report stage.”

Meanwhile, STPs in Ludhiana often remain dysfunctional. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up the Ludhiana municipal corporation a number of times. If all STPs are installed, the total capacity of STPs will come out to be 2538 MLDs while the present day sewage discharge of Punjab is 2110 MLDs.

Asked what is the way out if the government cannot support the cost of storm sewers amid the hurdle of congested lanes, Sharma said, “We are experimenting with something in Atal Mission for rejuvenation and urban transformation (AMRUT) towns – Jalandhar, Bathinda and Malerkotla. The place where water is accumulated, we will have a system to drain it out in a shorter duration.”

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