Centralized Wastewater Treatment Systems in India

Posted by Global technology interface on April 07, 2021

Rapid, and unplanned urbanisation has led to growth of stressed and poor urban infrastructure with lack of basic service delivery in India. Whilst this pattern of urbanisation has brought many challenges, wastewater, or sewage management remained as one of the most critical yet neglected areas. Urban India’s wastewater management systems present a grim picture with severe infrastructure gaps along the value chain with overburdened and financially stressed municipalities and corporations that are being unable to meet increasing service demand.

Improper and poor wastewater management is predominant with regular occurrences of release of untreated wastewater and effluents into rivers, lakes or any other water bodies, hereby polluting these ecosystems. The frothing of Bellandur lake and incidences of catching of fire in the lakes of Bengaluru are prominent examples which give evidence of indiscriminate discharge of untreated wastewater in the water bodies.

Part of the problem is that India still manages and considers its water as an infinite resource on a linear model of withdrawal i.e. consumption and disposal. But a more efficient management model is to look at water is from a “circular economy” perspective. We need to understand that the water’s usability doesn’t need to end once it washes down the drain. Rather, one should see industrial and domestic wastewater as a valuable commodity from which usable water, nutrients and other essential items can be derived.

We need to look at wastewater treatment not as an expensive exercise, but as a valuable process that helps in treating water. This can further open up the possibility to find innovative solutions that recover various resources to incentivise wastewater treatment and help to reduce costs, maximize material efficiency, and reduce the carbon footprint. Wastewater offers a range of possibilities for reuse and recovery of resources. 

Case studies and best practices on different approaches and models of reuse and resource recovery from wastewater are prevalent globally on different scales and at different development stages. For example, in Kumasi, Ghana, they have piloted project to demonstrate the benefit treatment of faecal sludge and organic solid waste for reuse in agriculture. In Nashik, an integrated nexus-approach of wastewater, energy and agriculture wastewater and organic solid waste has been adopted to improve the resource management in the city. The European Commission has been funding projects that validate innovative solutions that convert wastewater treatment plants into production units for energy, nutrients, water for re-use.

Despite these global examples, initiatives in India are  still budding. But with accumulative stress on the accessibility and availability of water and other resources, resource recovery and circular economy practices in the wastewater sector can be critical to make urban areas sustainable.

Wastewater as a Resource

Innovations in the area of wastewater treatment focuses on the principle that wastewater can be a resource. The innovations in this sector is compelled and inclined to innovate new technologies and ideas. The main underlying philosophy that revolves around the simple thought is that reuse of wastewater results in lesser extraction of water and thus saving the fast depleting natural resource from extinction.

Some of the new technologies being used and introduced for wastewater treatment globally to reclaim the resources are enumerated below-

  1. Membrane Filtration (MF)- The MF is essential to the development of advanced water reclamation systems and these systems are expected to continue further. Micro and ultra-filtration membranes help to remove a wide range of dissolved contaminants. Membrane bioreactor filtration technology is being extensively used for advanced treatment to produce water for reuse by the industries.
  2. Nanotechnology- The emergence of nanotechnology and the incorporation of living microorganisms in biomicroelectronic devices has revolutionized the treatment process. The best part is that it can easily merge with other technologies and modify, endorse and clarify any existing concept. It offers innovative approach to develop and exploit these processes in completely new ways.
  3. Automatic Variable Filtration (AVF) Technology- AVF technology is used for wastewater treatment in which upward flow of influent is cleaned by downward flow of filter media. During the treatment process itself, the filter media is cleaned by the filtered influent thus there is no requirement for any additional filter media cleaning or fresh water.

These new treatment processes with resource recovery along with the integration of urban water and waste management systems will improve the sustainability of our water resources. new wastewater treatment technologies can significantly reduce water abstraction from our already resource constrained world. reclaim water must be managed properly to maintain the integrity of the overall treatment system. The energy consumption in treatment plants also requires active management to make the entire process efficient and effective. Technologies to meet these challenges already exist and work is going on to refine and integrate them into higher performing more sustainable systems. The challenge is to choose the most appropriate one from the available options and developing institutional arrangements for implementing them in the most effective ways

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