- Taking a dip in the Ganga may soon become a pristine experience, if steps being planned by the government to clean up India’s rivers fructify.
- Tough new norms have been proposed for waste being discharged into the country’s rivers to clean them up and ensure that ghats are fit for bathing, part of the government’s drive to halt pollution in water bodies across the country led by Ganga.
- Prodded by the environment ministry, the Central Pollution Control Board is set to notify stringent new norms specifically for sewage treatment plants (STPs) for the first time so that their discharge matches global parameters on water quality.
- In addition, it is revising bathing water quality standards to ensure that people taking holy dips are not exposed to infection, besides pollutants.
- Sewage treatment capacity in the country is woefully inadequate and where they exist, about 40% of the facilities don’t meet operating standards.
- Once notified, all new STPs will have to meet the fresh norms and existing treatment plants, which now follow guidelines for general effluents, will get five years to achieve them.
- The stringent norms in the works will also apply to big industrial units, steel and thermal power plants and new townships, which are increasingly setting up their own STPs.
- According to the CPCB, domestic sewage is responsible for about 80% of water pollution in India, with most cities lacking adequate sewage treatment and municipal solid waste processing facilities.
- The new standards that have been devised are comparable with global standards, will require installation of modern filtration systems and will ensure zero-bacteria discharge into the rivers.
- The cost of setting up STPs will increase significantly once the new standards come into effect.
- The average cost of an STP currently ranges from Rs 70 lakh to Rs 1.1 crore per million litres a day of sewage generated.
- Although the bigger Indian cities alone generate 29,129 million litres of sewage a day, the installed sewage treatment capacity is only 6,190 million litres a day, or a little more than 20%.
- While the new technology that will be required at STPs to meet these standards is expensive, it has to be done in the interest of public health and the survival of the rivers.
- The new standards will require STPs to maintain drastically lower levels of biological oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand, which are indirect indicators of pollution in water.
Source:The Economic Times