The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to revive its plan to set up a desalination plant to turn seawater into potable water through reverse osmosis, in an effort to tackle the water crisis plaguing Mumbai due to uneven rainfall.
BMC is in talks with an Israel-based company and, as per preliminary reports, the civic body is considering an area near the sea in Malad for the plant. The plant will have a capacity of 200 million litres daily (MLD), requiring about 25 acres.
BMC plans to set up the plant under the ‘Swiss Challenge Method’. Under this, a project can be awarded to a private firm on an unsolicited proposal. The firm that first submits a proposal is approached directly for negotiations and if it doesn’t agree, other bidders are called. Officials said a primary report by the firm will be submitted to BMC in a few weeks after which a feasibility study will be done followed by detailed project report (DPR). If all goes as per plan, Mumbai could have its first desalination plant by 2025, officials said.
“Considering climate change and future requirement of water for the city, desalination is a sustainable technology. We have to explore other possible options for future water needs and nomena, we can’t depend on just one source (dams) for supply. Once we get the proposal from the firm, we can go for feasibility study,” P Velrasu, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Projects), told The Indian Express.
BMC’s move comes after Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray showed interest in a desalination plant. On Monday, he held a meeting for the project with BMC officials. Civic officials said finding such a large plot is an issue and if Malad doesn’t work out, BMC would explore other areas. Besides, instead of constructing one huge plant, two small plants can be set up at different places.
In 2016, BMC cancelled a proposal to set up a desalination plant citing high cost and land issues. In 2007, a state government-appointed high-level committee had suggested setting up desalination plants in Mumbai. BMC had then said a 100 MLD desalination plant would cost Rs 1,000 crore. The civic body had said bringing water to the city through the existing network was cheaper.
Asked about the cost, civic officials said now technology has evolved and cost has come down. Now, in a desalination plant water would cost about Rs 18 per kilo litre against Rs 29 per kilo litre in 2009. “In a dam the cost is about Rs 17 per kilo litre, which is close to what it is in a desalination plant. So, eventually we would be spending the same amount that will be required for dam construction. In the last few years, technology has changed and it’s no more costly,” said Velrasu.
According to officials, the desalination project could cost Rs 6,000 crore, which is also the estimated construction cost of Gargai dam project.
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