17 Jul 2022  |   06:53am IST

GOING DOWN THE DRAIN

While the State’s sewerage coverage is only at measly 17%, crores of rupees have been spent and are still being spent on infrastructure for sewerage treatment plants (STPS) and sewer lines across Goa. Moreover, only 21.07 mld of the 78.555 mld capacity of STPs in Goa are being utilized, which is less than 30%. KARSTEN MIRANDA takes a look at problems faced by the authorities and the public and what is being done to address these issues
GOING DOWN THE DRAIN

The Government of Goa has spent crores of rupees in the last two decades on sewerage management across the State and it will continue to spend crores of rupees in the next decade on the same project but despite all these efforts and ambitious plans, at present, only 26.82 % of Goa’s total sewerage treatment plants’ (STPs) capacity is 

being utilised.  

While this information was shared by the PWD Department in a written reply in the ongoing monsoon Assembly session, the department stated that only 17% households in the State are connected to the sewerage network.

 “I have recently taken over the PWD department but I feel ashamed that our numbers are so low. The national average of sewerage coverage is around 34 to 35% but in Goa the State average is half of that, around 16 to 17%. Our goal is to improve on this tremendously. I am not saying 100 percent but we want to bring the State coverage to at least 50 percent and later maybe up to 70%,” said Cabral.

 Incidentally the PWD department informed the Assembly that besides the 17% of households that have sewerage connections, the balance households are adopting conventional septic soak pit arrangements wherever the sewerage network is not available or not commissioned.

 “Today we have a lot of issues. Sewage is something which no one wants in their house or in their vicinity. Since I took over (this department), I have come to know that pipelines worth crores and crores of rupees have been put inside and left there. And ultimately, the locations of the sewerage treatment plants are becoming a hassle and the pumping stations are becoming an even bigger hassle because of various different elements based on the problems people experienced in the past,” Cabral elaborated.  

 “Through the press, I would request all the people of Goa to come forward and get their sewerage connections done at the earliest. I want to tell them that technology has changed compared to what was there in the past. I know there are apprehensions but the solutions have come and now there is much more improvement. With technological advances, we can bring these apprehensions cast by various sections of society on smell and other things to a logical end and get it settled,’ Cabral added.  

 “With the help of the people of Goa, MLAs, elected representatives, municipalities, panchayats, we can use the pipelines worth crores and crores of rupees that were installed to get the sewerage coverage in Goa to 50% and later on the State can achieve an even higher target of above 70% coverage,” Cabral reiterated.

However, experts in the field opined that the PWD and the Sewerage and Infrastructural Development Corporation of Goa Limited (SIDCGL) should be focusing more on addressing issues at the existing STPs in order to convince the public that the sewerage is being properly treated. 

 In addition to multiple protests across the State of untreated sewage being released into the open into nullahs which further contaminate the river and water bodies, there is also the concern about the existing STPS not being optimally utilised. 

 It is to be noted that residential buildings having over 50 rooms/flats and hotels are mandated to have their own effluent treatment plants as per the Town and Country Planning (TCP) Act, 2010. Moreover, as per the State’s Open Defecation-free (ODF) policy sulabh toilets and bio-toilets have been provided for groups of houses/communities but questions have been raised to these are being managed too. 

 As per the information shared by the PWD in the Assembly, there are 12 STPs in operation across Goa, which have a combined total capacity of 78.555 MLD (minimal liquid discharge) but only 21.07 MLD is being utilised at present (see table on STPs across Goa). While three of these plants are managed by PWD, the remaining 9 are managed by SIDCGL.  There is still augmentation work underway at some of these plants and testing underway at the new plants such as the one at Colva where treated water was flushed out of the sewerage line on a trial basis.   

From a larger perspective, as per SIDGCL, the urban and rural areas combined in the State generate 196.88 MLD of wastewater.

 SIDCGL is also pumping out Rs 3078.49 crore to implement sewerage schemes in 14 new locations whereas work on completing new STPS having the capacity of 73.50 MLD is underway.  “It is proposed to cover the city and all the major towns with sewerage networks using appropriate technology, to achieve the goal of total sanitation and clean environment in urban as well as rural areas,” said SIDCGL officials.

SIDCGL officials added that once the new sewer lines are laid, the GIS mapping of it will be done in lines with existing Panjim, Vasco and Margao sewerage systems.

“Health hazards such as contamination of groundwater or drinking water are observed due to the lack of adequate soaking capacity of the soil in Areas with high ground water table & low lying areas, letting of the wastewater in open drains is growing due to urbanization. Hence In addition to above areas, laying of sewer network for balance and low laying areas is proposed and will incur approximately Rs. 1,660 crore,” SIDCGL officials added. 

 Overall the State government plans to spend Rs 4,732 crore over 10 years to streamline the sewerage in city/towns and the coastal belt.

 The PWD department also introduced the advanced robot named ‘Bandicoot’ to clean and maintain the manholes of sewerage drainage safely without workers entering inside it, which is aimed at eliminating manual scavenging. However, this has been limited to just one or two STP and their related sewerage lines although the overall aim is to expand this concept to the rest of the sewerage network in the State.


IDhar UDHAR

IDHAR UDHAR