Raw sewage pouring into city’s waterways

Sewage treatment is grossly inadequate, finds a social audit of a city-based citizen’s group

Nearly 1,073 million litres of raw sewage is let into the city’s waterways without any treatment every day. Chennai Metrowater’s sewage treatment capacity is grossly inadequate to treat the sewage generated by the growing metropolis, notes a social audit made by Arappor Iyakkam, a citizen’s group.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Jayaram Venkatesan, convenor of the Iyakkam, said, though the water agency states that the sewage generation is 550 million litres a day (mld), the 245 sewage pumping stations collect 605 mld. “But, only 522 mld is treated daily. We had collated the data obtained about the collection in sewage pumping stations through RTI. While the treatment capacity is 727 mld in five plants, there is still a gap of nearly 83 mld of untreated sewage due to various reasons be it poor maintenance of treatment facilities or discharge of raw sewage into waterways right from pumping stations,” he said.

Pointing out to various studies and Chennai Corporation’s estimate on city’s water consumption, he said Metrowater’s supply of 830 mld (before drought) accounts for only 34 % of the consumption. Residents also use various other sources such as borewells and private suppliers. With this, the total water consumption works out to about 2,400 mld. “If sewage generated is 80% of the water consumption as per the Central Pollution Control Board, Chennai generates between 1,500 mld and 2,000 mld even if it’s conservative estimate,” he added.

The 20-member team of the Iyakkam, which was engaged in the social audit for about six months, also visited 27 sewage pumping stations and found out that raw sewage from 10 pumping stations was being let out directly into the nearby waterways be it Cooum or Buckingham canal due to distance. They include facilities in Greams Road, Jawahar Nagar, Arumbakkam, Manali and Periyar Nagar.

‘Poor maintenance’

Members of the Iyakkam said a visit to the sewage treatment facilities also revealed that those at Nesapakkam and Kodungaiyur were poorly maintained and sewage was not being treated properly.

Kanchan Asrani of the Iyakkam said sewage was also being let into the waterways through stormwater drains. “We received reply for an RTI that Chennai Corporation did not have records on illegal sewer connections,” she said.

The team said there was an urgent need to allocate budget towards stepping up sewage treatment capacity and also instal automatic flow meters to maintain account of volume of sewage collected and treated. Mr. Venkatesan said besides online monitoring of STPs and additional manpower, the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Act must also be amended to make Chennai Metrowater accountable for the sewage treatment and also introduce levy of fine on defaulters. “We have submitted the report to the Metrowater and plan to meet officials soon,” he added.

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 3:06:23 PM |

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