In line with the ongoing policy thrust on the creation of smart, liveable cities, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is currently assisting a $400 million project in the city of Kolkata, aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of basic urban services.
“ADB has had a long-term partnership with Kolkata city. We are working to achieve 24-hour continuous water supply and strengthen sewerage and drainage networks. This will provide clean water to the citizens, reduce flood risks, and increase the city’s climate resilience. It is our constant endeavour to improve operational efficiencies in delivering a range of municipal services in the city,” says Kenichi Yokoyama, ADB Country Director for India.
The Kolkata Environmental Improvement Investment Program (KEIIP) (2014-22) is focused on improving water supply, sewerage and sanitation services and is a logical extension of the original programme, the Kolkata Environmental Improvement Program (KEIP), implemented from 2002 to 2013. KEIP has been successful in improving the coverage of sewerage and drainage (S&D) networks in the city as well as bettering water supply and sanitation services.
KEIIP, which is being implemented by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), West Bengal, will provide S&D facilities in the balance area (37 square km) that was not covered in the first phase of the programme which covered 50.7 square km. Besides, the project will seek to reduce non-revenue water and enhance KMC’s capacity to provide municipal services.
Of the 200 square km area under KMC, KEIP 2002-13 and KEIIP 2014-22 together cover about 87 square km which includes the peripheral areas that were brought within KMC limits in 1983. These areas lack basic infrastructure and services such as piped water supply and sewage management.
KEIP’s objectives included providing affordable access to basic urban services in slums, revamping and upgrading the S&D system, making the solid waste management system efficient, restoring the city’s drainage canals, and enhancing KMC’s capacity to raise the standards of municipal services.
The achievements of the project, which concluded in 2013, include the construction of 378 km of S&D network, renovation and desilting of 218 km of sewers and drains, renovation of three sewage treatment plants (STPs), widening of 28 km of drains, desilting of 130.8 km of canals, and lining of 7.6 km of canals. In addition, slum improvement activities including the construction of 565 water standpoints, 700 community latrines and 280 bathing platforms were carried out. Reportedly, the percentage of Kolkata’s population with direct sewer connections increased from 31 per cent in 2001 to 43 per cent in 2011.
Although 92 per cent of the total population served by KMC has access to piped water, the supply is uneven in terms of duration (hours per day) as well as quantity (litres per capita per day). In addition, unaccounted-for water is estimated at 40 per cent of the city’s total water supply. Further, as per the latest available estimates, KMC has an installed capacity to treat less than 30 per cent of the total sewage generated. Also, the peripheral areas of the city, which are particularly underserved in terms of water supply and sewerage, were added to KMC limits later, and have been given special attention under the programme.
Within its project coverage area, KEIIP 2014-22 aims at providing 100 per cent coverage of 24-hour quality water supply, 100 per cent sewerage coverage, and 100 per cent sewerage treatment. It also aims at capacity building of the implementing authority, KMC, to bring in efficiency in water supply operations, accelerate sewerage asset creation, accumulate surplus for future capital investment and establish a utility finance improvement unit/ board to ensure financial sustainability of the urban local body.
The programme is being funded in three tranches – Tranches I, II and III. Tranche I, which is divided into nine packages, aims at funding the extension of S&D networks and improving water supply efficiency, and is expected to be implemented until 2019. Civil works are currently ongoing under this tranche.
KEIIP Tranche 2 which is expected to run until 2022 is at a nascent stage at present. The scope of work involves rehabilitating inefficient water supply assets, extension of S&D networks and institutional capacity building of KMC. The use of technology in the project activities has been widespread. This includes the use of micro-tunnelling for laying S&D networks and geographic information system (GIS) to map water supply and sewerage assets, the installation of water meters for detecting NRW, and deploying IT-enabled systems for urban governance (tax collection, customer support services, bill payments, etc.)
The overall status reveals that civil contracts have either recently been awarded or approved for award. As per the procurement plan document (July 2017), goods and works contracts worth approximately $184 million have been approved or awarded between September 2016 and March 2017 and about $72 million worth of contracts are expected to be awarded in the next 18 months.
The third and last tranche of KEIIP, Tranche III is currently in the planning stage with an expected financing of $100 million.
“Through our project, KMC became the first municipality in the country to have an S&D master plan. All works commissioned and executed under the tranches will be as per this plan. By the time the project is completed, we will ensure that in the KEIIP project coverage area not a drop of untreated sewage is dumped into the rivers,” says Sourav Majumder, project officer, ADB.
The way forward
Kolkata’s population density is the thirteenth highest in the world. With this population density, a result of the influx of industrial labour from rural areas as well as immigrants from across the border, the city’s existing municipal services often prove to be inadequate. These immigrants mostly inhabit the outer bounds of the city, which does not have organised S&D. Likewise, authorised and unauthorised slums – which make up 31.35 per cent of the city’s total population – generally have unsanitary conditions with very poor access to sanitation facilities and safe and affordable water supply.
KEIIP is expected to significantly improve water supply and S&D services in the city. The environmental benefits are expected to be considerable as urban waterbodies will not be saturated with untreated sewage. Also, the control of water leakages will mean lower wastewater generation, which in turn will improve environment quality. Other benefits include reduced waterlogging, which is a recurrent problem in Kolkata. Besides reducing inundation and traffic chaos, these interventions will have a positive impact on public health as waterborne and other hygiene-related diseases will reduce.