New sewage treatment plants in Indian cities: could dry toilets have been a viable alternative? - and Bengaluru wastewater reuse example

  • F H Mughal
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New sewage treatment plants in Indian cities: could dry toilets have been a viable alternative? - and Bengaluru wastewater reuse example

Sewage Treatment in India
According to the The Daily WASH, Edition of 19 April 2015, in India, the environment ministry has decided to divert sewage from entering the water bodies. According to the special secretary of the environment ministry: “We are taking action so that no untreated sewage is released in water bodies or underground water. We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory. Reuse for all non-potable purposes like in industrial process, gardening, cleaning of railway tracks and irrigation. We are issuing notification for it. This is a major decision.”

As a person, familiar with this type of water pollution in Pakistan, and knowing fully well, how difficult it is in view of immense obstacles, this is, no doubt, a major, major decision. Full marks to the Indian environment ministry for taking this bold step.

In the Sindh province of Pakistan, municipal sewage treatment is almost negligible. Most industries here do not treat their wastewater. All untreated municipal and industrial wastewaters are discharged in the surface water bodies, including Indus River. We do have here the effluent discharge standards – on paper only.

The Indian environment ministry seems very serious, as the special secretary of the ministry says:
“Sewage is the main cause of water pollution. Sewage treatment can no longer be delayed for want of money. The time has come for it. The message was that if one state can do it, others can also do it. We have also prescribed standards for treated effluent of sewage—basically what should be the quality after treatment.”

While, there will be many problems, when undertaking this exercise, I wish the Indian environment ministry all the success in this bold initiative!

More details can be seen here:

www.livemint.com/Politics/PeMgVuICxhYwyj...om-water-bodies.html

F H Mughal

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  • muench
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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

I am wondering if this is just "political talk" or if something real has changed in India.
I suspect that legislation was already existing in India that said all sewage must be treated but it was simply not enforced in many cases? Has something changed now?

Or is the new aspect now a greater emphasis on reuse?

I know that in some developing countries, the expected effluent quality standards from wastewater treatment plants are really high (higher than necessary for some reuse applications, e.g. removing nutrients even if they would be useful for agriculture), but that in most cases these standards are not achieved and not enforced.

This is where the WHO Guidelines from 2006 would come in handy which explain what treatment steps are recommended for what reuse application:

WHO (2006). WHO Guidelines for the Safe Use of Wastewater, Excreta and Greywater (Vol. II) - Wastewater Use in Agriculture. WHO/UNEP/FAO
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On the topic of reuse, there is also a Wikipedia article on "reclaimed water" which is waiting to be improved further by someone:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reclaimed_water

My husband who is in the traditional wastwater treatment plant industry (large centralised plants) told me there is lots of business for them in India (this is the company if anyone is interested: www.passavant-ee.com ). So I guess there is a bit of a boom for wastewater treatment plants there now? This is good and bad. Let's hope that the plants that they build are the right ones and can be operated well so that they don't fall into disrepair after some years or are becoming to expensive to operate when energy prices rise.


Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • zenrainman
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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

There is quite a bit of seriousness to treat waste-water in my city Bengaluru for example. The city generates 1100 million litres of waste-water daily and is setting up 11 additional sewage treatment plants to the existing 14 to treat most of the waste-water generated by the end of 2016. In addition it is mandatory for all apartments and residential plotted developments with ore than 50 units to have their own WWTP's and reuse the water completely.
Some interesting developments include one set of apartments treating and blending their waste-water with fresh water and drinking it . This is the first such reuse system of its kind in India . The head of the State Pollution Control Board has given his seal of approval by drinking it himself . An article in the newspaper on this here www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-nationa...e/article6073612.ece

There are an estimated 650 small scale WWTP's in Bengaluru treating a total of about 210 Million litres per day. One experiment we are assisting in is to use treated waste-water for artificial recharge of the shallow aquifer. Some details of the 240 KLD system here www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.101531....119756927607&type=3 . Another 10 MLD reatment plant located in a place called Jakkur treats the water and after it is further polished in a wetland it fills up a 50 hectare lake. Fish is reared in this lake and is harvested plus the aquifers around are recharged A small writeup here www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-feature...r/article5355922.ece and bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/en-...story-of-jakkur-lake All in all these are the best of times and the worst of times for waste-water in Bengaluru population 10 million.

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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

Dear All
Proper treatment of waste water in urban areas in India is a serious challenge. In Metros and Class I cities there are STPs, however, only a few of them are functioning to meet the norms of discharge of effluent. It’s quite difficult to find any Metro / Class I city having 100% collection system of sewage. STPs are rarely available in Class II, III and IV towns (that constitute over 90% of towns/ cities. nos.). There is a huge opportunity for waste water treatment particularly for decentralized systems in India.
Recently the National Green Tribunal of India headed by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar,is taking very effective steps to overcome the problems of pollution and waste management. Only yesterday, a Five Star Hotel- Redisson Blue, was sealed for discharging untreated waste water, into a drain leading to nearby Ganga River at Haridwar.
The NGT has issued notices to all polluting industries and State Governments / Local bodies located near the bank of Ganga and Yamuna River, with the direction to take action in a stipulated time. It is hoped that the results of the action of NGT will be visible to common people soon. There are a lot of positive changes in recent months.
NGT is not a new in India, neither the rules are new, only the present Chairman is new. Therefore, it is the will power of the top functionary that makes difference, not the fund and technology. If there is will, fund and technology to overcome pollution will follow soon.
Pawan

Pawan Jha
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New Delhi 110045, India
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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

Thanks for your replies, Vishwanath (Zenrainman) and Pawan. Very interesting.

Just a few clarification questions to your posts:

Vishwanath:
  1. What did you mean by: "these are the best of times and the worst of times for waste-water in Bengaluru"?
  2. Is there any talk in your city about reducing the amount of wastewater generated? E.g. via reduction of water use (demand management)?
  3. What fraction of the 10 mio people are connected to the sewer system presently and will the connection rate be rapidly expanded?
  4. Would people really drink the treated wastewater in that appartment building, and which treatment process is being used there? Must be something with membrane filtration? But in any case people don't tend to drink tap water in Indian cities but drink only bottled water, I thought? (my husband recently had an Indian water engineer visiting here in Germany and it took him about 20 minutes to convince him that drinking from the tap in Germany is safe...)
  5. When you are saying "One experiment we are assisting in is to use treated waste-water for artificial recharge of the shallow aquifer.", then who is "we"?
  6. Are you agreeing with this trend of building more and more large treatment plants or would you argue for other alternatives? Like those decentralised treatment plants, would you say they are inherently better or it depends? (I guess dry toilets are out of the question for a densely populated city like this one)
  7. (Bangalore is now Bengaluru? New name to remember :-) )

Pawan:

I just listened to your featured user interview, very interesting! (see: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/145-fe...jha-from-india#13409 )
It explains further some of the points you made here.

It is really interesting what you say about the importance of political will. How great that there is finally a person in charge who has a strong political will. How powerful is the Chairman of the National Green Tribunal of India though? Which ministry is that connected with? What are his responsibilities?

And what did you mean by "Only yesterday, a Five Star Hotel- Redisson Blue, was sealed for discharging untreated waste water, into a drain leading to nearby Ganga River at Haridwar." I don't understand what "was sealed" could mean in this context? Was fined? Was closed?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

Dear Elisabeth

National Green Tribunal was established in India in 2010 under an Act passed by the Parliament. It is under the Central Government. It was established for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The Tribunal is headed by Chairman who is a retired Justice of Supreme Court (Highest court in India) or Chief Justice of any State with the members from both judiciary and well known technical experts. Present Chairman is the Ex, Justice of Supreme Court of India.
The Tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases where a substantial question relating to environment(including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment), is involved and such question arises out of the implementation of the enactments specified.
Whoever, fails to comply the order of the Tribunal, shall be punishable with imprisonment or with fine or both, as decided by the Tribunal. Against the order of the Tribunal one can appeal only in the Supreme Court of India.
Redisson Hotel was sealed i.e., closed. No new booking of rooms for guests was allowed. The existing guests in the hotel were allowed to continue till their planned checkout dates. Similar closure of some hotels was reported also in a City named Puri located at the western coast of Bay of Bengal, Orissa State in India only 2 days before. In this case also waste water from hotels was being discharged into Bay of Bengal without any treatment.
Tribunal through the State Pollution Control Board sends notice to such polluting industries/ establishments giving suitable time to treat waste before discharge. Tribunal takes action as per its mandates if order is not complied appropriately.
Persons concerned with the environment protection in India are mostly happy with the Tribunal’s effective decisions in recent months.

pawan

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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

What an opportunity lost. The opportunity: leapfrog resource and capital intensive western systems. The loss: foregoing the option of sustainable alternatives.

And to think that the notion of "deep conservation" originated in India...


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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

Hi Kai,

I sort of know what you are getting at, but nevertheless which other realistic option - that has been tried and tested (i.e. not at research stage only) - can you envisage for a very densely populated city with 10 million people like Bengaluru? As much as I like urine-diverting dry toilets, even I would balk at the idea of installing them there. Same with constructed wetlands. The only alternative I can think of (in addition to reducing the amount of wastewater generated of course) are perhaps vacuum toilets and "high tech" decentralised treatment units in the basements of large appartment buildings. Which is why I asked Vishwanath the question about what technology is used in the appartment building example that he was talking about.

By the way, some of the research results coming out of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC) grants might be applicable to the case of Bengaluru, like perhaps the nano membrane toilet by Cranfield Uni or the hydrothermal carbonization unit by Loughborough Uni. Find them all here in the project database when filtered by technology "innovative science and technology":
www.susana.org/en/resources/projects?vbl...5D=&vbl_7%5B79%5D=79

But a lot of them are still far away from commercial application so one cannot expect Bangaluru City Council to wait for them.

Perhaps those new treatment plants that are being built are at least maximising energy recovery via biogas from sewage sludge and perhaps utilising the aerobic granulation process which seems to be a step forward for the activated sludge process - Nereda process (the Wikipedia page on this topic looks alright at first glance: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerobic_granulation ).

Would also be interesting to know what financing and operation and maintenance schemes they are employing.
Again drawing on the experience of my husband who was involved with building treatment plants in India: it is not too rare to find cases where the operators are "saving" on operating costs after the contractors have finished building the activated sludge treatment plants by first turning off the dosing of chemicals (e.g. flocculants for sludge thickening) and later even turning off the aerators... (which of course means the treatment plant fails to work at all).
If there is a strong regulator though (see Pawan's post above), then this can be prevented (?).

Regards,
Elisabeth

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  • F H Mughal
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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

Dear Elisabeth,

Lately, you have been referring to your husband’s expertise, off and on, in your posts. How about asking him to share his expertise directly with us, by write posts on this forum? I’m sure, Susana rules would allow that!! :)

Based on your last para above (Again drawing on the experience of my husband who was involved with building treatment plants in India) please convey my following queries to him (and please ask him to respond directly – we will love that, won’t you??!! ;) ):

1. What types of wastewater treatment plants are preferred in the rural areas of India – activated sludge, trickling filters, aerated lagoons, anaerobic filters, waste stabilization ponds, etc?

2. Is funding for the O&M (operation and maintenance) of the plants a problem, in rural areas in India?

3. Are the plant’s components like aerators, screw pumps, sludge scrappers, large vertical non-clogging pumps, etc, etc, manufactured locally in India, or, are they imported?

Smiles :cheer:

F H Mughal

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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

Well, what's "realistic" is different for different people and places and times. But, as I write this, there are 40-some-odd million people in India that are jobless (and how many tens or hundreds of millions more that are under-employed?). ~40 million is the equivalent of half of Germany's population. So, setting aside caste issues and the prevalence of open defecation (neither to be taken lightly, mind you) there would appear to be plenty of workers to support a countrywide door-to-door collection scheme. Add-in water scarcity, a few million oxen (to pull a few million carts) and a recent history (and ongoing prevalence) of open sewers (therefore less aversion to poop) and I'd say there's the possibility to create the world's first large-scale decentralized/centralized carbon-neutral sanitation/fertilizer production project. Isn't this really just a matter of drive and will? We put people on the moon for crying out loud and that was 46 years ago! We can do anything we put our mind to.

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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

I don't know... Doesn't sound very appealing to me to have millions of lowly paid sanitation workers moving containers of excreta around a big city with millions of oxen-drawn carts - adding further to all the cities' traffic jams (and odors?) if nothing else. And for a country like India that is pulling itself out of poverty and slowly leaving "developing coutry" status behind, I don't think politicians would be thrilled to push for that option.

Don't get me wrong, I do find container-based sanitation a perfectly valid option in the available mix of options. In areas where sewers are not possible, like certain slum areads, container-based sanitation might well be the best option. See also the other thread here where we are discussing it for low-income areas in Haiti: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/180-ur...nford-university-usa

and here:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/170-pu...business-model#13472

And I also do have my questions about all these new treatment plants in Bengaluru (still hoping that Vishwanath will address the questions that I raised above).
But I don't think the simplistic view that Bengaluru should build no treatment plants and go completey down the dry toilet route with a collection service makes is valid.

One thing that I do think could be worth exploring further is at least to keep the urine separate. One could envision urine tanks at appartment or street level (would need separate urine pipework) from where the urine is collected on a weekly basis (for example) and then put to good use; perhaps after some treatment to reduce its volume like the processes developed in the VUNA project (4 pages of discussion here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/98-res...and-and-south-africa )
Again, the issue of transport costs might be a killer though as you'd have to transport the urine or the urine-derived fertilisers to the fields which are presumably moving further and further away from the city centre.

One thing I agree with you is that if there is a leapfrog opportunity here with regards to wastewater technology, it should be taken. I am just not too sure which part exactly can be leap frogged here.
Keep in mind also that even if everyone had dry toilets, you would still have to deal with all the greywater (I know it's easier to treat than domestic wastewater but still; I don't think you'd find enough space for constructed wetlands on the roof of each appartment building?).

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Sewage Treatment in India: "We are making collection, transportation, treatment and finally reuse of sewage mandatory"

My point is that OSS (on site sanitation) in the form of urine diverting dry toilets can be rolled out rapidly, takes very little municipal infrastructure - beyond perhaps installation privately of urine pipes that lead to centralized tanks (as in multifamily buildings) - and can be accomplished in a carbon-neutral fashion (relative to collection via IC* vehicles or installation of closed sewers and construction of inefficient (in terms of nutrient recover) and energy-intensive centralized wastewater treatment plants. One is unsustainable from both a resource and capital perspective and the other is resilient and potentially self-sustaining. Its just a matter of whether you subscribe to the reality that a low-energy future awaits us (and I mean "us" as in most of us that participate in this forum) or not.

And as far as India is concerned - its been a few years since I traveled through Rajasthan and Delhi, but it seems to me that OSS would be far superior to those areas that rely heavily on open sewers.

* 'IC' refers to internal combustion

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