Water, waste water and hyacinth

It is summer time, and this time it is particularly severe summer. Like every summer, this time as well, besides talking of rising mercury, the talk of the town is scarcity of water, water levels of dams. I am seeing change this time though-I hardly hear people talk of load shedding of electricity. Does it mean that problem is solved more or less? Not sure, need to find out. I was in Bengaluru few days back. I was expecting a better weather compared to Pune. But Bengaluru was also hot, citizens of Garden City were in rude shock on how summer has played this year for them. Now is that a surprise? This was writing on a wall considering the mindless concrete jungle sprouting up all over, tree cover disappearing fast.

Bengaluru also was known as city of lakes. Many of the lakes have been land-filled and reclaimed for buildings. The ones which are still around, are breathing their last. It is absolutely sad for to see the state of those lakes as I traveled around the city passing some of them. India Water Portal has detailed report on it. Back in Pune, we are not so lucky to have lakes all over the city, but we are lucky to have 3 rivers flowing through the metropolitan city of Pune which includes PMC and PMC-Mula, Mutha and Pavana. Can anyone call them rivers now? Can anyone call those lakes as lakes now? They are dead. Same thing happened to Pashan lake in Pune(which was mecca for bird lovers in Pune), and river Indrayani near Talegaon, 40 km from Pune. The rampant construction activity disturbing the ecosystem surrounding them, plus dumping untreated waste into them, turned them into hell now, and this has happened in last 8-10 years. Anyone can see a green cover called hyacinth(जलपर्णी) which keeps growing on the river and lake surface. Every time that happens, we see citizens making noise, we see photographs in the newspapers, and after some time local authorities making tall claims on how they managed to remove them. Has anyone been thinking of what root cause of getting unwanted this weed? We also keep hearing about Ganga river cleaning project and big funds Japanese government extending towards that. But why they got polluted in the first place?


Hyacinth cover over river in Pune. Image courtesy Indian Express

The problem is waste water management. Have you noticed waste water being dumped into these rivers and lakes, by no other than gutters and drainage pipelines of our own local authorities. Anyone who travels by road near Dapodi, via Harris bridge can see the big waster water pipe flushing itself rapid rate into river. Similar is the situation for lakes in Bengaluru. The unchecked dumping of industrial waste, human waste/sewage water, into these water sources is killing these rivers and lakes, there by disturbing, killing the natural ecosystem of flora and fauna. Besides making these water bodies dead, they also are filled with unwanted silt. I have talked of desilting here. The solution is effective waster water management by having water treatment plants, waste water treatment plants. In fact, many housing societies and IT parks have started having their own water water treatment plants for recycling water.

Many of us have visited and also lived foreign countries, especially, developed ones. One of the most noticeable different besides development, the attention and care for nature. Due to strict laws and its enforcement, water pollution is controlled, and particular attention is paid to ensure water bodies such as lakes, rivers, streams are maintained and preserved. In fact, they are developed as areas for recreation. Can we imagine going to a river side for recreation these days? I used to work water utilities company in Pune called MWH(now part of Stantec) for some time consulting them on big data analytics for water utilities. During my stint there, I learnt about interesting projects in water utilities and waste water treatment and management. I was surprised to see to what extent these countries are looking to take water utilities and water water management problem by applying cutting edge technology.

I recently read that Pune is hosting, first time, an international conference on sustainable water & waste water treatment systems(ISWATS). In fact it is starting today(April 23). The conference is going address various topics including:

  • Integrated urban water management

  • Natural & compact technological solutions

  • Upscaling water & waste water treatment solutions

  • Solar driven disinfection techniques

  • Community participation in water and waste water treatment

  • Promoting involvement & capacity building of SMEs for replication

  • Technological propagation in government & public sectors

The news report said, in India, only 30% water water is treated. Out 816 sewage treatment plants in the country, 522 are in working condition. We, of course, need to build more of these for sure. But the law enforcement for industries towards releasing waster and untreated water also should be stricter and sans corruption. The other things impacting these water sources is obstructing the flow and course of rivers or lakes, by dumping construction waste. This is also on rampant and needs to be checked.

I just hope that conferences such as this, and also smart cities initiatives take care of this basic issue to solve water related problems. I have written about other ecology related issues on this blog, which you may be interested in.



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