The Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said that we must work towards conserving water to minimize the generation of waste water. We must make people understand how water and waste are inter-connected. Only with a judicious combination of water supply and waste water management can we hope to confront the water crisis that is looming large before us!
Waste and water are two sides of a coin. Indian cities produce nearly 40,000 million liters of sewage per day, enough to irrigate 9 million hectares. However, barely 20 per cent of this is treated, which is an enormous waste of a critical resource. Our cities have still not understood that wherever there is water, there will be waste.
Addressing at the “Second Anil Agrawal Dialogue on ‘Excreta does Matter” organized by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) this week, he said that this waste needs to be collected, treated and then disposed. However, sewage and sewerage still remain one of the most neglected and flawed part of urban planning in India.
He expressed his concern that Sewage pollutes our water bodies, since nearly 80 per cent of it is untreated and is discharged in the nearest water body through unlined drains. This kills the receptacle besides polluting the groundwater. This groundwater is used by half of urban Indians without treatment – for drinking, cooking and bathing- thereby creating a ticking health bomb amongst our people. The CSE’s report has found that in all states, nitrate levels in groundwater exceed the permissible levels, a clear indicator that it is non-potable. This is a direct consequence of sewage contamination.
The Vice President said that the pollution load coupled with overexploitation has killed many rivers. Simultaneously, urban lakes and wetlands have steadily disappeared under ‘development’ or have become cesspools. These water bodies are crucial to the survival of our cities, as they maintain the groundwater balance, absorb and store water from rainfall and moderate the climate.
He said that India has a long and unique history of waste water management that helped it cope with a long dry season. We have developed a rich diversity of water management suited to local climates. Modern technology can help make these more efficient. We have to identity and maximize local water resources and ensure its sustainability though prudent conservation and recharge, as sourcing water from great distance is wasteful and unsustainable.
The Vice President opined that we also have to change our approach to handling waste water, which is a valuable resource. This can happen when we start to use a menu of sewage treatment options that go beyond the current limited list of conventional sewage treatment. There are proven technologies for sewage treatment using natural processes that have been developed and used in India. The treated water can be a valuable resource for agriculture or horticulture and replace groundwater use to some extent.
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