The collection and effective treatment of sewage continue to be one of the biggest areas of concern for urban local bodies (ULBs) in Odisha. Rapid urbanisation and increasing population have only compounded the problem. While sewage generation is increasing, treatment capacity seems almost static. At present, about 1,500 million litres per day (mld) of sewage is generated in the state. Of this, only 375 mld or 25 per cent is treated. The remaining 1,125 mld sewage is discharged untreated into the Mahanadi river and its tributaries. As a result, the water quality has deteriorated. The state also lacks efficient solid waste management (SWM). At present, about 2,700 metric tonnes per day (tpd) of waste is generated. Of this, only about 11 per cent is processed. With regard to faecal sludge management, about 45 per cent of population still defecates in the open. So far, only four cities (including Deogarh and Jharsuguda) have been declared open-defecation-free.
The government, particularly at the central level, has taken several policy, regulatory and financial initiatives to improve sewage management practices in the country. After the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014, about 0.42 million new toilets have been constructed in rural areas and about 70,000 in urban areas of the state. Besides, a number of projects to augment the sewage collection and treatment capacity of ULBs have been implemented under initiatives such as the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
Attempts have also been made at the state level towards expanding sewerage infrastructure through various policies and state government-funded projects and schemes, and encouraging the use of treated waste water. The Odisha Urban Sanitation Strategy (OUSS) was introduced in 2017 to ensure that all urban areas are open-defecation-free and solid waste is managed properly. Besides, the Odisha Urban Infrastructure Development Fund (OUIDF) has been created to finance urban infrastructure projects in the state.
Further, to closely study the current state of water supply and sanitation infrastructure in the state, city-level field-based research was conducted by the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) in coordination with the Odisha government in 2017. Under the study, four cities – Cuttack, Sambalpur, Paradip and Subarnapur – were selected on the basis of their proximity to the Mahanadi river.
Based on the findings, the Urban Wastewater Management in Odisha report was released by the NIUA in early 2018. The report assesses the performance of these cities by analysing the current practices for managing waste water, solid waste and faecal sludge. It also highlights the urgent need for enhancing the sewage collection and treatment capacity and recommends new initiatives and measures to overcome the existing service backlog.
According to the findings of the study, all four cities – Cuttack, Sambalpur, Paradip and Subarnapur – are visibly deficient in the quality of services they provide. The cities have a massive backlog in terms of sewerage network as well as treatment capacity. At present, Cuttack generates a total of 92 mld of sewage. The entire quantity of sewage generated is discharged untreated into waterbodies. The Cuttack Municipal Corporation (CMC) has developed only one sewage treatment plant (STP) so far (33 mld capacity) at Madgajpur, which has been lying non-operational for a long time. The civic agency is now developing another STP of 90 mld capacity with official development assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Further, the Sambalpur municipality currently has no operational sewage treatment facility. The entire quantity of sewage generated is discharged untreated into the drains. Recently, the state government has taken some initiatives to expand the city’s sewerage network. The Orissa Water Supply and Sewerage Board (OWSSB) is implementing a sewerage project in the area. It has also planned to set up a 42 mld capacity STP with an initial budget of Rs 3.24 billion. The municipality has also received additional funding of Rs 700 million for the STP project under AMRUT.
In Paradip too there exists a huge gap between sewage generation and treatment. The Paradip Port Trust (PPT) has developed two STPs in the city that have been lying abandoned for more than a decade. The port trust is currently setting up two more STPs of 2 mld and 2.5 mld capacity. The construction work on both the STPs was expected to be completed by August 2018. However, no further update on the commissioning of the plants is available. Further, PPT is planning to develop another STP of 2 mld capacity in Paradip.
Meanwhile, Subarnapur generates about 2.4 mld of waste water. The waste water is discharged untreated into the river through various small drains. In terms of sewerage infrastructure, the town currently has no STP. About 36 km of sewers have been laid to collect sewage and discharge it into the water bodies.
Water supply and sanitation
With regard to water supply, all four cities have been facing acute water shortages. The CMC’s existing water distribution network supplies 115 mld of piped water, meeting just about half of Cuttack’s needs. Sambalpur receives about 62.32 mld of water which is supplied by the Public Health Engineering Organization.
In the port town of Paradip, PPT supplies about 11.34 mld of water. Subarnapur city receives 3 mld of treated water on average. At present, only about 43 per cent of the households receive piped water supply. Further, open-defecation is another major challenge in all four cities. In Cuttack, about 13,390 households defecate in the open. Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the corporation has targeted declaring at least 60 per cent of its 59 wards open-defecation-free by the end of March 2019. So far, only one ward, the Banki notified area council, has been declared open-defecation-free.
Paradip has a total of 18,235 households. About 51 per cent (9,275 households) defecate in the open. Meanwhile, almost 2,310 households use public toilets.
In Subarnapur, almost 41 per cent of the households (1,977) defecate in the open, whereas in Sambalpur about 34 per cent (20,267 households) defecate in the open. So far, 883 toilets and 541 toilets have been constructed in Subarnapur and Sambalpur respectively.
Solid waste management
The management of municipal solid waste in a scientific manner is another grave issue faced by these cities. Barring Paradip, waste management infrastructure in the other three cities is characterised by the absence of door-to-door collection, inadequate transportation infrastructure, dumping of waste at unapproved sites, unscientific waste disposal, and inadequate treatment capacity.
These cities are dependent on private agencies for garbage collection. For instance, the Sambalpur municipality generates about 100 tpd of solid waste, most of which is dumped near the banks of the Mahanadi river. The municipality has outsourced street sweeping in 29 wards to a private party. Further, 31 acres of land has been identified at Nildungri for setting up an integrated SWM system covering the entire city. The CMC has also outsourced door-to-door waste collection in 39 wards to a private agency. About 183 tonnes of waste is generated per day, of which, about 141 tpd is collected and processed. The remaining is dumped at the Chakradharpur dumpyard.
The Paradip municipality generates about 57.45 tpd of garbage. Over 0.2 million tonnes is dumped untreated at local dumpyards. To process the garbage, the municipality has proposed a SWM project under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, which is funded by the World Bank. In Subarnapur, about 22 tpd of solid waste is generated and about 16 tpd is collected and disposed of at dumping sites at present.
Other key parameters
The four cities have also been assessed with regard to the prevailing slum sanitation and waste management, financing and manpower issues at the ULB level. The state of civic infrastructure in the slum areas is abysmal. Owing to the lack of basic solid waste collection and treatment facilities, waste is dumped untreated at local dumping sites resulting in serious health problems.
The Urban Wastewater Management in Odisha report also provides key suggestions and recommendations for improving the overall state of water supply and sanitation in Odisha.
- Need for convergence and coordination: A major area of concern is the lack of convergence and coordination between various programmes and schemes targeted towards improving water supply and sewerage services. There is an urgent need to promote coordination between various stakeholders involved. Another major issue is the lack of accountability of the private agencies involved in waste collection and transportation services.
- Access to accurate and reliable data: ULBs need to adopt computerised methods for collating data from all sources as there are huge gaps in the availability of data at the ULB level. Availability of accurate data for solid and liquid waste generation, disposal and treatment will help provide a clear picture of the existing scenario.
- Effective waste management: While the Odisha Urban Sanitation Strategy (OUSS), 2017, assigns high priority to the need for waste segregation, no city except Paradip seems to have taken any step in this direction. There is an urgent need to promote waste segregation at source and incentivise composting by developing lucrative business models.
- Setting up decentralised sewage treatment systems: Most of the existing sewage treatment facilities in the country are centralised. As a result, a large proportion of the population is underserved. Therefore, there is a need to set up decentralised sewage treatment systems that cater to a greater number of small areas.
- Elimination of open defecation: At present, about 45 per cent of the state’s total population defecates in the open. There is thus an urgent need to build more public toilets, community toilets and mobile toilets to completely eliminate the practice of open defection in cities.
- Creating public awareness: In order to eliminate open defecation, ULBs need to undertake campaigns and drives to spread awareness among the public about the benefits of a safe latrine.
- The state government, in collaboration with all the stakeholders, should develop a roadmap for the future highlighting the water supply and sanitation needs to ensure the adequate provision of civic infrastructure.
On the whole, the water supply and sanitation sector in Odisha has a long way to go. Given the existing backlog, the state government has paid greater attention to improving sewage collection and treatment capacity in recent years. There have been some visible improvements in water supply and sanitation services in terms of projects undertaken, capacity addition and technology adoption.
In terms of financing, each city has seen an increase in fund allocations and spending. Cuttack and Sambalpur have been included under AMRUT. However, much is still left to be achieved. Despite renewed interest from the state and local governments, the overall progress in the sector has been below expectation. This is primarily because of the massive service backlog and inadequate coverage, lack of ULB capacity, absence of stable revenue streams, poor project structuring and financing issues. Unless these issues are addressed, the state government’s objective of achieving universal water supply and sanitation coverage will remain unmet.