The Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) is considering a proposal through which Viability Gap Funding (VGF) can be provided to private players for sewage treatment. By making sewage water treatment a viable business model, the MWRRA hopes that less untreated sewage will enter the sea.“Constructing and running a Sewage Treatment Plant is an expensive affair and Urban Local Bodies find it difficult to do this. Earlier, the water had to be discharged into the river after the treatment, which means the water would no longer be their property. But now we have changed the policy and now once they treat the water they own it. So, now these bodies can sell the water after it is treated,” said K P Bakshi, MWRRA chairman.
As per the new policy, the treated water can be sold to industries at a mutually agreed rate or even to farmers at a rate not exceeding 65 per cent of the cost of freshwater. “There may be no farms within the city limits as they are generally situated on the fringes of the municipal limits. The municipal body can bring the water to these fringe areas and store it in a lake or pond from where the farmers can use it for agricultural purposes,” he added.
By making the treatment of water a viable investment, they will ensure that local bodies proactively take it up and ensure that untreated sewage does not flow into the water bodies. To begin with, MWRRA is in talks with Shahad Temghar Water Authority, a company formed in 2005 by Thane Municipal Corporation to take care of the water needs of villages from Thane, Bhiwandi and Mira-Bhayandar.
“They are currently selling fresh water to these areas, so we are telling them to move to treated water. They can involve themselves right from the treatment of water to selling it,” he said. The project report is expected to be prepared in the next three months and then the proposal will be submitted to the government.
The state government has also entered a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Australian government. Among the matters in discussion are the treatment of water, aquifer charging, technology for use of less water and technology for remote opening of canal gates. The government of Maharashtra is also in discussion with the New South Wales government to set a Center of Excellence. “Experts from the countries will come together for water management. This is not an MoU but we expect it to be set up in the next six months,” Bakshi said.