Delhi Jal Board’s interceptor sewer project nears completion

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The Interceptor Sewer Project (ISP), a project approved by the Delhi Cabinet more than a decade ago to trap and treat the sewage that finds its way to the Yamuna, is “almost” complete, according to the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).

The facility to ‘trap’ the sewage in the drains is mostly complete, except for a stretch in Seelampur that will be completed by March, according to a senior DJB official. However, the treatment capacity for the trapped sewage is yet to be fully operational. Work on the ISP is being executed by Engineers India Limited, a public sector undertaking.

Out of the 242 MGD (million gallons per day) of waste water that the project was expected to trap and treat, around 170 MGD is being treated, according to a report submitted by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to the Ministry of Jal Shakti in December last year.

Work at the Kondli, Rithala, and Coronation Pillar sewage treatment plants (STP) is underway and expected to be complete by December 2022, and the capacity to treat the remaining sewage will be available only once these are commissioned, the DJB official said. The capacity of these existing STPs is being enhanced.

Going by the DPCC report, the estimated quantity of sewage generated in the city is 720 MGD, and the existing treatment capacity at 34 STPs is 577 MGD, leaving 143 MGD of waste water untreated. Of the existing capacity, only 514 MGD is utilised. In December, 22 STPs did not comply with the treatment standards prescribed by the DPCC.

Three large drains – the Najafgarh, Supplementary and Shahdara drains – carry most of the sewage into the Yamuna, while smaller drains meet these larger drains. As part of the ISP, interceptor chambers have been constructed at these drains to ‘trap’ the sewage. Pipes have then been laid along the drains to transfer the waste to the nearest sewage pumping station, and from there to the nearest STP. Water from around 108 drains is being trapped under the project.

The cost of the ISP, which is the trapping system, is around Rs 1,395 crore, the official said. This is excluding the cost of the work on the STPs.

Environmentalists are skeptical about the impact, if any, that the project might have on the river. “The existing STPs are not working properly and do not meet the standards prescribed for treated water. The project was conceived a long while ago based on sewage output of those times. Since then, the output has increased and the treatment gap will still remain,” said Diwan Singh, environmentalist who has been associated with water conservation projects.

According to the minutes of a meeting held last month of the Principal Committee appointed on the orders of the NGT to monitor the cleaning and rejuvenation of the river, Prof A. K. Gosain, Professor Emeritus, IIT Delhi, told the committee that the work being done by the DJB to trap natural drains and control the entry of untreated sewage into the river, “will remain a temporary measure” till a sewerage master plan is implemented for the city. “DJB has to complete the laying of sewers so that sewage shouldn’t get discharged into existing stormwater channels,” as per the minutes of the meeting.

Manoj Misra, convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, said, “The STPs are not ready. Even if EIL says they have done their job, if the STPs are not ready, what is the point. Besides, not all drains were taken into account under this project.”

According to a progress report prepared by EIL in 2011, the contractual completion of the project was to have been in February 2012, and the anticipated completion was to have been between 2013 and 2014.

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