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Untreated Waste Goes Into Water Bodies, But Metrowater Says Seven Treatment Plants On Anvil

Jan 10 2017 : The Times of India (Chennai)

 When you flush your toilet, it is likely that the waste ends up in one of the city's water bod ies. Adyar, Cooum, Bucking ham Canal and other water bodies have turned into sewer canals as Metrowater is equipped to handle only one-third of the sewage generated in the city.

Of the 1,800-2,000 million litres a day (MLD) of sewage, Metrowater's sewage treatment plants can treat only about 550MLD. The rest of the sewage is released illegally into water bodies, leading to mosquito breeding and groundwater contamination.

In view of such environmental degradation and health risks, the Union ministry passed a resolution last month that Parliament may have to evolve an act on sewage management. Union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharti said, “The issue (sewage management) has taken such serious proportion that we may have to go for an act on waste water management.“

To cater to the burgeoning population of Chennai, Metrowater is expanding its underground sewerage network. Currently , the water supply and sewerage agency has treatment plants at Kodungaiyur, Nesapakkam, Koyambedu and Perungudi. Seven more plants are to be set up in the coming years in newly-added areas of the corporation.

Metrowater officials said they are sufficiently equipped to handle sewage generated in the city .“Metrowater supplies 830 million litres a daily .Roughly 80% of water turns into sewage. We have the treatment facility to handle the load,“ an official said. However, the total water consumption amounts to nearly 2,500MLD when private sources are taken into account. This generates nearly 2,000MLD sewage (80%), leaving the Metrowater plants overloaded. As a result, the city waterways have turned into sewer canals.

Metrowater's 3,000-km-long sewer network carries sewage from about seven lakh homes and commercial establishments with legal sewer connections. The number of illegal connections, however, outnumbers the legal ones. The homes commercial establishments that are without sewer connections let out sewage into stormwater drains meant to carry rainwater.

In added areas where construction of sewer lines is likely to take years, residents have already started using recently-built stormwater drains release sewage. Social activist Jawahar Shanmugam, who has been campaigning to restore Buckingham Canal through the National Green Tribunal, said the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has turned a blind eye to violations.

“In areas beyond Perugnudi, on Old Mahabalipuram Road, IT companies and gated communities have no sewerage connections. A large number of them discharge untreated sewage into Buckingham Canal through sewer trucks, “Jawahar said. Buckingham Canal, that cuts across the city acts as a conduit, carrying sewage into the Adyar and Cooum rivers.

But Metrowater officials say work on construction of sewer lines and sewage treatment plants is in progress in many added areas. The plant in Ambattur has been completed and has only sewerage lines to be connected, while work on the Tambaram plant is almost complete.