Views of Rajiv Ranjan Mishra

“The NMCG is developing a model policy document for reuse of treated wastewater”

With India’s urban population expected to grow from 377 million in 2011 to over 600 million by 2030, there is a greater need to ensure that development is sustainable. This will need the successful management of freshwater resources. However, the concept of integrated urban water management is still at a nascent stage, though some attempts have been made by the government to prioritise the water and wastewater sector. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) or the NamamiGange mission is one such initiative that aims to rejuvenate the Ganga river and its tributaries, following the integrated river basin management approach with multi-sectoral and multi-agency interventions for pollution abatement, improvement of river ecology and flow and strengthening of local participation, amongst others. At a recent India Infrastructure conference, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, spoke about the progress made under the mission, the emerging opportunities in the sector and the steps taken to deal with the Covid-19 crisis…

Progress under the mission

A total of 152 sewerage infrastructure projects have been sanctioned under the NamamiGange mission to create treatment capacity of 4,856 million litres per day (mld) in the Ganga basin. In 2014, the NMCG had only 28 projects in hand with a cumulative treatment capacity of 462.85 mld. However, the mission has been instrumental in enhancing the sewage treatment capacity from nearly 1,000 mld in 2014 to 2,100 mld at present in towns along the Ganga main stream. In addition, projects involving the creation and rehabilitation of about 4,000 mld of treatment capacity are currently at different stages of implementation. A number of landmark projects have been completed in the past two-three years. Several major drains have been intercepted, checking the flow of untreated sewage into the Ganga, and have been diverted to sewage treatment plants (STPs). Besides, 80 major drains have been tapped, including the 120-year-old SisamauNala in Kanpur and the KasawanNala in Haridwar. The NMCG has commissioned all the projects in Haridwar and Rishikesh while most of the other STPs in Uttarakhand along the Ganga have also been completed. The 140 mldDinapur STP and the 120 mldGoitha STP have been completed at Varanasi while another 50 mld STP at Ramana will be completed in 2020. In the state of Bihar, the mission aims to increase treatment capacity over tenfold from 60 mld to 650 mld.

HAM and one city-one operator approach

So far, a total of 29 projects worth Rs 108.16 billion under the hybrid annuity model (HAM)-based public-private partnership have been sanctioned in 18 packages. They involve new capacity creation of 1,604.24 mld and rehabilitation of 1,119.45 mld capacity of existing STPs. Construction has started in five packages in Haridwar, Varanasi, Mathura, Kanpur and Prayagraj. Besides, concession agreements have been signed for three packages – Budhana-Muzaffarnagar; Digha and Kankarbagh; and Howrah, Bally, Baranagar and Kamarhati. The NMCG has also issued the letter of acceptance for the Moradabad project. Further, there are seven packages under tendering – Mirzapur and Ghazipur, Farukkhabad, Bareilly, Meerut, Agra, Hooghly-Chinsurah, and Burdwan-Durgapur-Asansol – whereas tenders are under evaluation for the Bhagalpur and Maheshtala packages.

The NMCG has also adopted the one city-one operator concept by integrating the development of new STPs with the existing treatment infrastructure in cities/towns under HAM. The approach is expected to improve accountability and governance with a city-wide contract, integrate old and new assets for better meeting performance standards, and attract players to provide better service delivery. The one city-one operator concept has been envisaged for the cities of Kanpur, Prayagraj, Mathura, Farrukhabad, Mirzapur-Ghazipur, Bhagalpur, Howrah, Bally and Baranagar-Kamarhati, Hooghly-Chinsurah, Maheshtala, Burdwan, Durgapur and Asansol. Some of the major players who have expressed interest by participating in the bids are VA Tech Wabag, HNB Engineering Private Limited, Essel Infra Projects Limited, Triveni Engineering Industries Limited, Adani Enterprises Limited, Shapoorji&Pallonji and Company Limited, SMS Infra Limited, Swach Limited (SREI Infra), SUEZ Limited, Metito Limited, Visvaraj Infrastructure Limited, EMIT-EMS Infracon, and a GA Infra-Lahoti consortium.

One of the unique features of the mission has been the inclusion of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development guarantee against payment from the NMCG for three new projects at Agra, Meerut and Saharanpur. The World Bank has decided to guarantee payments by the NMCG during the operations and maintenance (O&M) period. The total value of the guarantee available under this scheme is $19 million for all three projects. This guarantee has been provided for the first time in the wastewater sector and will enable the NMCG to reduce the deposit in the payment security account to two quarters of O&M payments (capex annuity and O&M charges) instead of two years of O&M payments. Besides, it will also provide comfort to developers and financial institutions in terms of surety on payment to the concessionaire during the O&M period. This guarantee will remain in place for the entire O&M period of 15 years, despite the closure of the Ganga-II programme in 2026.

Focus on reuse of treated wastewater

The NMCG is formulating a model policy document for the reuse of treated wastewater for various non-potable purposes. Further, the mission also involved the construction of a 20 mld tertiary treatment plant (TTP) to supply treated wastewater to the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s Mathura refinery. The refinery is funding the entire O&M cost and 75 per cent of the capital cost for the TTP for a period of 15 years.

Further, the NMCG is working with the Ministry of Power for reuse of treated wastewater in thermal power plants in accordance with the central government’s Tariff Policy, 2016. State governments are also encouraging the reuse of treated wastewater from STPs for agricultural purposes. Under the 50 mld STP being constructed at Ramana, Varanasi, the effluent line from the STP will have certain discharge points in the pipeline for use in agriculture. Further, the treated wastewater from the 82 mld STP in Haridwar will be taken through a channel to agricultural fields nearby.

Comprehensive sanitation solutions for towns

The NMCG is working towards a comprehensive solution for towns, involving the construction of a sewer network, a septage handling system, interceptions and diversions and STPs. It has signed an MoU with the Centre for Science and Environment for building capacity for septage management. States such as Odisha and Uttar Pradesh are developing dedicated septage handling plants with financial assistance from the NMCG. One such plant has been recently set up in Chunar, Uttar Pradesh. The NMCG is exploring a twin strategy of developing stand-alone faecal sludge treatment plants as well as utilising STPs for co-treatment. It aims to focus on the entire cycle of faecal sludge and septage management such as desludging of septic tanks, septage transportation, pretreatment/treatment and reuse. Co-treatment facilities are being developed in all under-construction STPs such as those at Howrah, Bally, Kamarhati-Baranagar, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar and Budhana. Vacuum tankers will be used to dispose of the septage at predefined places in these STPs and septage will be treated with the sewage. This is already being practised in various towns such as Uttarkashi, Haridwar, Kanpur, Prayagraj and Lucknow. The NMCG has plans to set up septage receiving stations in existing STPs as well.

Measures taken during the pandemic

The NMCG has issued a circular to contractors and executing agencies to adhere to the safety guidelines given by the Ministry of Home Affairs, so that the safety of labour on site is not compromised. In order to ensure the smooth implementation of the mission during the lockdown, the NMCG prioritised the release of payments to contractors to avoid a resource crunch. It ensured that O&M of STPs, including the ones under the one city-one operator scheme was uninterrupted despite the difficulties in transporting material and mobilising manpower. Besides, it had requested the contractors to submit their remobilisation strategy for regaining construction momentum after easing of the lockdown on May 25, 2020. There has been a gradual increase in the number of workers at various sites and the pace of project implementation is slowly picking up. During the lockdown period, executing agencies and contractors were asked to focus on pending design and drawings and approvals so that construction could be expedited once the lockdown lifted. The NMCG undertook regular project progress reviews through video calls. It has also strategically considered the extension of the completion period of projects keeping in mind specific issues and the potential to make up for lost time with additional resources.

The NMCG aims to develop a framework to mainstream river and water issues in urban master plans for ensuring future sustainability through integrated urban water management. It is working towards adopting a similar approach and framework for rivers outside the Ganga basin. For this purpose, the National Green Tribunal has constituted a central monitoring committee under the NMCG. Besides, recommendations have been made to other ministries and states by NITI Aayog to adopt a similar framework for water management. The progress achieved under the mission has been recognised by several national and international agencies.

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