India Introduces more special water schemes

The Common Effluent Treatment Plants Schemes

Pollution from small size industries (SSIs) puts the Indian regulators in front of a difficult arbitrage between economic development and environmental sustainability. Indeed, 40% of the wastewater generated by Indian most polluting industries comes from small size industries. With the adoption of the water act, those small size industries had in theory the obligation to treat their effluent in order to reach a pollution concentration respecting the minimum acceptable standards laid down by the SPCBs. Nevertheless, the size of these facilities makes the installation of a standard effluent treatment plant (ETP) unaffordable because of the important fixed cost of an individual ETP. Therefore, public authorities have taken the initiative to promote common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) schemes, allowing small industries to gather in order to treat jointly their effluents. The CETP concept was originally promoted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1984. The first CETP in India was constructed in 1985 in Jeedimetlha near Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, to treat waste waters from pharmaceuticals and chemicals industries. In 1999, 82 CETPs had been set up around the country.Although CETPs are mainly seen as a mean to take advantage of scale economies, these schemes also act as subsidies from public powers to small industries in order to allow them to respect the standards. The minimum participation asked from SSIs in the CETP schemes implemented in India is 20%. The rest is funded through subsidies from central and state governments as well as loans from international organisations such as the world bank or Indian institutions such as IDBI or ILFS.The subsidy effect in favour of SSIs may be increased in some cases when an industrial area gathers SSIs as well as larger polluting industries. In these case, some cross subsidies may be set up by asking the larger industries to contribute to the development of the CETP while treating their effluent before releasing them in the common drain.There are in fact diverging opinions on the relevance of CETPs in a national pollution abatement policy. It has been clearly shown that compared to individual ETPs, CETPS are more cost effective in reaching the effluent concentration standards. (Pandey & Deb, 1998; Sankar 1998). However, treating the effluents is not the only way to meet the standards, and process changes induced by regulatory pressure have proved to give good results in several results, and can even enhance the company's competitiveness. In a seminal article published in 1991, Michael Porter formulated what is usually referred to as the "Porter Hypothesis" : "Strict environmental regulations do not inevitably hinder competitive advantage against foreign rivals; indeed, they often enhance it" (Porter, 1991). A test of the Porter hypothesis on the Indian manufacturing industry was recently carried out by Murty and Kumar (Murty & Kumar 2001) Taking this element into account, one can wonder if the CETPs are really a viable long term solution , or if they simply delay a necessary effort of process adaptation from the concerned industries.The River action plansThe National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD), under the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, is in charge of coordinating several river conservation plans. Those plans basically consist in the setting up of sewage diversion and treatment facilities, along with action directed toward mitigation of industrial pollution through the seting up of Individual or Common Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs)6The first large scale action plan oriented towards conservation and rehabilitation of water resources was the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), launched in 1985. The Ganga River Basin is one of the most populous in the world with 5 Indian states relying on the Ganga for their water needs (Haryana, Delhi, Uthar Pradesh and West Bengal). The river system has been divided in several streches for which objectives of water quality were fixed using the primary water quality standards defined in table 1. The main elements of the strategy adopted for the first phase of the Ganga Action Plan were a combination of diversion and treatment of sewage from the major cities in the river basin, as well as provision of low cost sanitation for rural areas, and other interventions such as river banks development and setting up of electric crematorium. In practice, only the first part of the plan consisting in diversion of sewages has been fully implemented. Out of the 1340 MLD capacity that was initially targeted for sewage treatment, only 873 was actually set up.The GAP has however led to an observable enhancement of river quality in the Ganga.Along with the actions directed toward domestic pollution, 68 highly polluting were identified along the Ganga River Basin and were asked to conform with the standards by setting up ETPs. The National Drinking Water MissionThe Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme (ARWSP) was introduced in 1972-73 by the Government of India to assist the States and Union Territories (UTs) to accelerate the pace of coverage of drinking water supply. The entire programme was given a Mission approach with the launch of the Technology Mission of Drinking Water and Related Water Management, also called the National Drinking Water Mission (NDWM), in 1986. It was one of the five Societal Missions launched by the Government of India. The NDWM was renamed as the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission (RGNDWM) in 1991.In addition of the ARWSP, the government launched a similar initiative on sanitation. The centrally Sponsored Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP) was laun ched in 1986 .