Guest Column | September 15, 2017

Sewage Treatment Plant Manufacturer Challenges And Opportunities

Sewage Treatment Plant Manufacturer Challenges And Opportunities

By Divyesh Delawala, Oceanides Global

The need for private partnership in wastewater management has been evident for some time. As a result, there are a number of ways that private players are now involved in wastewater management. For instance, there are plant management specialists, collecting specialists, and technical specialists.

However, given the severe lack of sewage treatment plants (STPs), what we need today are STP manufacturers in India. The government-run plants are clearly inadequate to meet India’s rising demands. Private players have become essential in this scenario. However, this is an area where the private and public partnerships are still in their infancy. Hence, some challenges are inevitable.

Opportunities For STP Manufacturers

Official data shows that the current sewage treatment system in India is severely lacking. According to the data available, a whopping 4,861 of the 5,161 cities and towns surveyed did not have any kind of sewerage network. Even in bigger cities, almost 50 percent of the urban population had no access to proper sewage disposal systems. In fact, some figures claim that more than 70 percent of the Indian population has no access to a proper sewage treatment centre!

While these numbers are appalling, these also show the need for private sector involvement. With many civic bodies now seeking private partnership, this is a golden opportunity for STP manufacturers in India. The involvement of private players ranges from the complete management and running of a plant to a functional involvement where they are responsible for a single or multiple functions.

  • As a solo player: Communities and colonies have been using private STP companies to install and run their sewage system. This is usually the most successful partnership because the task is clearly defined and decision making is simple. The community could be a corporative or a business colony.
  • In a public partnership: This can take many forms. In these partnerships a government body — a municipal corporation or a State government committee — has a certain predefined agreement with the private company on revenue generation, operation, and management. In the first kind of partnership, the private company takes over the entire management with the government paying an annuity. In the second kind of partnership, the private company handles the collection, management, as well as the revenue collection. In the third option, the government makes the investment, while the private company provides its expertise for a fee.

With rising demands and the emergence of new townships, these arrangements are becoming extremely common on the Indian landscape.

Challenges Ahead

There can be no doubt that private partnership in sewage treatment in India is now inevitable. But there are still many challenges that have to be met and addressed as we move forward. This is still an emerging partnership and we must be braced for some hiccups.

  • Revenue model: A successful partnership is only possible if there is a mutually agreed revenue model. However, this is often a bone of contention with both parties, with each accusing the other of unfairness. In community STPs, a revenue model must be devised beforehand to ensure continuity of the project.
  • Treatment of sewage at source: A good sewage treatment starts at source, especially in case of industrial waste. Certain sewage should be treated before it reaches the STP manufacturer in India. However, this is often lacking in our sewage system. With many people and industry still unaware of this requirement, there is no initiative to treat waste at the source.
  • Staff: There is an overall lack of skilled STP workers. While many manufacturing companies are also involved in the training, often this falls short after implementation. This is especially common where the manufacturer hands over the running to a third party after installation. 
  • Energy consumption: Most sewage plant treatments consume a high amount of energy. This increases the revenue and the overall cost on the environment.    
  • Lack of sewage treatment infrastructure: Ultimately a sewage treatment system depends on the infrastructure in place. This means proper disposal, collection, and dispersal. India still lacks in maintaining this basic hygiene.

Conclusion

The partnership between the government and private STP manufacturer in India is becoming increasingly important to meet the alarming situation in proper sewage treatment. While we are now faced with a golden opportunity to expand the presence of private players, many daunting challenges still remain.

Image credit: "PTAS MANAGUA.," Zenia Nuñez © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/