A higher industrial growth supported by well-connected infrastructure facilities is of paramount importance for the country to maintain the momentum of economic growth. Though Industrialisation has played a crucial role in economic development of India, pollution has been the inevitable price paid for this development leading to environmental damage.
Water is a critical subject of discussion and the ongoing water scarcity in many parts of the country and water shortage hitting the industrial sector is an emerging headwind for the economy.
According to Indian environment research organisation, in India, every litre of waste-water industries discharge pollutes a further 5-8 litres on average. Thus, in recent times, it is important to focus on balanced industrial and higher sustainable economic growth.
The groundwater extraction rate in India is the highest in the world – and is greater than the combined rates of China and the US. India was ranked 120 in the water quality index, out of 122 countries, in 2018. On average, high-income countries treat about 70 percent of the municipal and industrial wastewater they generate.
A more severe issue to deal at present is not to augment the capacity to treat wastewater but identifying the appropriate usage of treated wastewater. It has been observed that bulk of treated wastewater is put in drains rather than bringing it to effective use.
One of the major clients of treated wastewater is industry. Currently industry meets the water requirements primarily through two sources- (i) ground water extraction; (ii) fresh water supply from surface water. It is pertinent to understand that the bulk of industrial water requirements can be met through treated wastewater, provided the water is treated to the level acceptable to the industry. There are success stories in this regard in States like Gujarat and Maharashtra where treated wastewater is being put to effective use for industrial purposes.
The planned use of treated wastewater can increase resource efficiency and provide benefits to the ecosystem along with balanced industrial development. While the Central and State Governments have already taken cognizance of the issue and various initiatives such as Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 2.0 etc for water conservation and treatment, however, the time is opportune to implement a dedicated policy intervention at institutional level enabling the use of treated wastewater for industrial development.
After having discussion with various stakeholders, given below are few suggestions to enable expeditious use of treated wastewater in industry:
Need for Treated Wastewater Management Policy for States
There is a need for formulation and implementation of State vide policy on wastewater management as done in States of Gujarat and Haryana for maximizing the collection and treatment of sewage generated and reusing the treated wastewater on a sustainable basis, thereby reducing dependency on freshwater resources to promote treated wastewater as an economic resource.
Decentralised wastewater treatment as a leaver for sustainable water usage
While it is ideal for industry to grow in clusters but often the industry organically grows in a scattered manner in our country and at such instances providing for treated wastewater from a centralised source can be challenging. In such cases, decentralised treatment and reuse of wastewater can be a game changer.
Such a decentralised approach of wastewater management has been prevalent in countries like Japan over many past decades. It is therefore important to look towards potential of decentralised wastewater treatment by constructing sewage treatment plants (STPs) at the source rather than conventional large STPs in clusters.
Attractive price tariff of treated wastewater to enable fast adoption: Price is an important deciding factor for industries to replace consumption of fresh water with treated wastewater for industrial purposes. Therefore, it is suggested to formulate a price tariff with due consultation from all the relevant stakeholders making sure that the price of treated wastewater is attractive enough for industry to switch to treated wastewater.
Usage of treated wastewater to be an integral part of the industry regulatory framework
The obligation to use treated wastewater should be made as an integral part of the industry regulatory framework so that the usage of treated wastewater is objectively monitored.
Industrial development has been an important basis for ‘economic growth’ and it will continue to remain an important aspect of growth for the country. However, it is an appropriate time for the country to shift focus towards achieving ‘Green Growth’.
(Kanishk Maheshwari, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Primus Partners)