Jaipur’s wastewater conundrum

A report by NIUA brings to light the chinks in Jaipur's sewage system and suggests some solutions.
Routine check done by the sewage treatment plant staff in Delawas, Jaipur. The plant is part of the ADB best practices projects list. (Image: Asian Development Bank, Flickr Commons) Routine check done by the sewage treatment plant staff in Delawas, Jaipur. The plant is part of the ADB best practices projects list. (Image: Asian Development Bank, Flickr Commons)

A major area of concern currently for India is the proper disposal of wastewater in urban areas. The huge increase in supply of potable water to cater to the needs of modern urban households has correspondingly increased the quantum of wastewater. The implementation of the Swacch Bharat Mission has also led to a substantial increase in the number of toilets and this has increased the faecal sludge and the wastewater load considerably.

The state of Rajasthan in particular, faces the same challenge, with disposal of greywater, blackwater and faecal sludge. The Rajasthan Government has over the past decade or so considerably enhanced its investments in building centralised sanitation infrastructure in the state with its own resources, augmented by funding from the central government under various schemes and also with loans from the Asian Development Bank. These centralised sanitation systems are mostly in towns with populations greater than 5 lakh people; however, projects are underway in smaller towns in the state too. The state government has also notified a policy on Sewerage and Wastewater and another on Faecal Sludge and Septage Management.

Jaipur has an extensive centralised sanitation system that covers 60 percent of the city and 80 percent of the population. The National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) conducted a desk study of the sanitation situation in Jaipur based on an analysis of government documents, state policies with regard to sanitation and faecal sludge management. This combined with field visits to some towns uncovered some major constraints to the successful operation of centralised sanitation systems.

  • Lack of adequate water supply is the first major obstacle. Sewerage systems ideally require 135 litres per capita per day (lpcd) water supply to maintain adequate flow but apart from Jaipur and Udaipur, this is absent and on an average the water supply is only 66 lpcd.ƒ
  • Even where sewerage systems have been installed and are operational, there are not enough house connections.
  • Urban local bodies (ULBs) do not have the resources to operate and maintain sewerage systems and sewage treatment plants (STPs). Sanitation charges levied on users do not cover the costs for the ULB to manage this kind of centralised infrastructure.
  • Sewers often get clogged due to inadequate flow and the flushing of plastics. When this happens, cleaning of sewers is largely in the purview of contractors, and is mostly done manually in violation of the law against manual scavenging.
  • The few STPs that are operating are not following standard procedures and are releasing inadequately treated water into the environment. Apart from two privately constructed and run STPs in Udaipur and Bhilwara reuse of treated wastewater for non-potable use is not being done.

Related: A photo essay on the lives of urban sanitation workers in India, and why manual cleaning of sewers still occurs.

Inadequate water supply and financing

Sewerage systems and STPs in Jaipur have 730 kilometres of sewer lines and an installed capacity of 442 million litres per day (MLD). However, due to inadequate water supply which currently is about 90 lpcd, there is inadequate flow in the sewers and so they get choked frequently. The STPs are not operating at full capacity and neither is the wastewater being treated according to prescribed standards. Apart from the STPs at Delawas, generation of electricity from the digestion of sludge and the use of manure and reuse of treated wastewater is not being done. The STPs constructed as part of the Dravyavati Riverfront Development Project too are not functioning properly.

Onsite sanitation systems still serve 20 percent of the population of Jaipur and the faecal sludge and septage from these are not being disposed of properly. Therefore, the possibilities of co-treatment of faecal sludge in sewage treatment plants, which are running at less than their installed capacity, need to be explored as has been done in some other cities in India. 

The primary reason for the under performance of the centralised sanitation systems in Jaipur are inadequate finances. The shortfall in the actual expenditures for the Public Health Department of the Jaipur Municipal Corporation from budget estimates for 2014-15 is 27 percent. The actual expenditures in the case of sewerage and STPs fall short of prescribed standards by 41.5 percent. The recovery of this expenditure in the form of sanitation taxes and sewerage and sewage treatment charges is only a dismal 1.6 percent.

The revenue garnered from property taxes is only 7 percent of the total revenue receipts as against the norm of 25 percent; this is also a major reason for poor revenue mobilisation leading to a revenue deficit. An affordability analysis shows that if the actual expenditures of the Public Health Department on sewerage and sewage treatment were to be recovered from user charges to be levied from the section of the populace that is above the poverty line, then 35 percent or more of the population would be paying 4.5 percent or more of their average household consumption expenditure as sanitation charges, which is a very high proportion.

Thus, there is a considerable financial barrier to running centralised sanitation systems, as the revenue for them cannot be raised either through taxes or through user charges. 

The city’s water supply

The water supply scenario too is equally problematic with the actual supply being only 90 lpcd combining all sources. As much as 200 MLD of potable water is supplied from the Bisalpur dam on the River Banas at a very high cost of Rs. 18 per kilolitre. The domestic consumption of this water is 90 percent and it is under charged. Even these low charges are not properly collected and currently there is an overdue of Rs. 50 crores.

Thus, given the operational, environmental and financial unsustainability of Jaipur’s centralised sanitation and water supply systems, and the provisions of the state’s wastewater policies for reuse of treated waste water, generation of energy and manure from digested sludge in STPs, it is time to explore decentralised waste water treatment and reuse and co-treatment of faecal sludge. Decentralised waste water treatment by private parties capable of doing so will be a progressive measure that will considerably reduce the financial and operational burden of the Jaipur Municipal Corporation and lead to a much better sanitation scenario in the city.

Recommendations

The study reveals that there is a significant gap between policy and implementation with regard to sanitation management in the city of Jaipur. There is a need to explore ways in which the operation of the existing sewerage system and STPs can be improved and alternative systems can be introduced to make the provision of sanitation services more sustainable and equitable.

  • Reuse of treated waste water: Currently, apart from a few small STPs in the city, most of the treated waste water is not being reused because the treatment is not up to reusable standards and also because systems have not been put in place for reuse that can bring in revenue. In Udaipur and Bhilwara, two private corporations set up STPs to treat and reuse the waste water for their industrial processes. These firms were forced to invest in wastewater treatment because they had no other alternative. Similarly, if the JMC were to strictly stop supplying Bisalpur water to industries and the district administration were to strictly enforce a ban on groundwater use for industries, then the latter would have no other alternative to using and paying for treated waste water. Given that treated wastewater costs only Rs. 3 per kilolitre, even after amortising the capital cost on the infrastructure required to deliver it to users, it is much cheaper than using Bisalpur water which costs Rs. 18 per kilolitre.
  • Recharge and harvesting of storm water: Extensive water recharging and wastewater treatment and reuse must be done for a sustainable hybrid ground cum surface water combination of water supply. The cost of installing a water recharge system is about 2 percent of the total building cost and it goes down proportionately as the size of the building increases. Yet this is not being done. The benefits in terms of obviating the need for extensive centralised storm water drainage systems and increasing the groundwater availability far outweigh these costs.
  • Decentralised sanitation systems: As with storm water, wastewater is much cheaper to treat and reuse or recharge, in a decentralised manner. There are many cost effective and environmentally sound decentralised treatment options, some of which have been detailed in the CPHEEO manual on sewerage and sewage treatment (CPHEEO, 2013) and by the Consortium for DEWATS Dissemination Society (CDD & NIUA, 2017). The main considerations for implementing decentralised waste treatment systems are the area required and the capital and O&M expenses. These depend on the technology used. The use of bio-remediation technologies reduces the area required but increases the capital and O&M costs due to the use of sophisticated infrastructure and higher amounts of energy and enzymes. Therefore, depending on the availability of space and finances, an appropriate decentralised method can be adopted either at the household level or at the community level.
  • Sustainable and equitable sanitation management: Storm water recharge and harvesting combined with decentralised wastewater treatment, recharge and reuse is a much more sustainable alternative financial, social and environmental terms. The water supply and sanitation functions of Jaipur have to be ringfenced under a separate water supply and sewerage board that will oversee the proper implementation of the SSWWP, SPFSSM and the Rajasthan State Water Policy.

The full report can be accessed here

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