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The menace of wastewater

Topics covered:

  1. Pollution related issues.


The menace of wastewater


What to study?

For prelims and mains: the menace of waste water, concerns and measures needed.


Context: The National Green Tribunal has directed 18 States and 2 Union Territories to submit their respective action plans on utilisation of treated wastewater to reduce pressure on the groundwater resources across the country.

The states and UTs were ordered to submit their action plan within 3 months time to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).



The action plan includes establishing a monitoring mechanism for coordination with the local bodies, which will be overseen by the chief secretaries of all the states and UTs.


Concerns and challenges:

  • Almost 80% of water supply flows back into the ecosystem as wastewater. This can be a critical environmental and health hazard if not treated properly but its proper management could help the water managers in meeting the city’s water demand.
  • Currently, India has the capacity to treat approximately 37% of its wastewater, or 22,963 million litres per day (MLD), against a daily sewage generation of approximately 61,754 MLD according to the 2015 report of the Central Pollution Control Board.
  • Moreover, most sewage treatment plants do not function at maximum capacity and do not conform to the standards prescribed.


Need of hour:

A paradigm shift from “use and throw – linear” to a “use, treat, and reuse – circular” approach is needed to manage wastewater. That said, investment in wastewater treatment has associated risks as well. It is therefore important to understand the underlying social, political, technical, and financial factors that will drive, facilitate, and sustain wastewater management interventions in India.


Critical factors for making an informed decision:

  1. Drivers for initiating wastewater management,
  2. Policies and regulations,
  3. Access to technology and finance,
  4. Scale of intervention,
  5. Management strategy and institutional framework,
  6. Public perception,
  7. Phases of deployment, and
  8. A framework for participatory approach.


Way ahead:

The 2017 United Nations’ Water Development Programme’s World Water Development Report (WWDR) – Wastewater: The Untapped Resource makes clear that we can no longer afford this disconnect.

As we pursue the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 663 million people around the world who still lack improved sources of drinking water put into perspective the urgency of our mission.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 specifically focusses on water and sanitation, with Target 3 addressing water quality, but the availability of water is a cross-cutting issue upon which every aspect of development hinges.

Put simply, water is life, and without a sustained commitment to improving and benefiting from effective wastewater management, that precious resource, and the billions of lives it nourishes, are in peril.


Sources: Indian Express.