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In recent news, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) finds itself under scrutiny as the Khadakwasla division of the state water resources department issues a fresh notice. This notice sternly urges PMC to confront its ongoing failure to adequately treat sewage water before discharging into the Mula-Mutha River.
Pune, August 29, 2023: The repercussions of this failure are grave, as it contributes to the deterioration of the river’s water quality, prompting regulatory action and a significant financial penalty of Rs. 507 crore.
The notice and stipulated fine
The recent notice served upon PMC outlines a staggering Rs. 507 crore fine for six years of non-compliance. This financial penalty underscores the need to address untreated sewage water entering the river. While PMC has made strides in treating a substantial portion of the sewage water generated within the city’s limits, the unresolved challenge lies in handling the sewage water from villages merged in recent years.
The magnitude of the challenge
PMC handles approximately 477 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage water out of the total 750 MLD produced within the city’s former boundaries. However, this accomplishment is overshadowed by the untreated sewage water originating from villages merged in 2017 (139 MLD) and 2021 (250 MLD). This untreated discharge continues to have a detrimental impact on the Mula-Mutha River’s ecosystem, exacerbating the issue of river pollution.
Current efforts and shortcomings
PMC operates nine sewage treatment plants (STPs) that manage the sewage water generated within the city’s previous limits. Despite these efforts, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) directives have necessitated PMC to pay the ₹507 crore fine due to its failure to address the sewage water treatment issue. It’s worth noting that PMC has been remitting only ₹72 crore as annual water charges to the state water resources department, overlooking the accumulating penalty. According to the law, the fine should equal twice the amount owed for the water charges.
A multi-faceted approach
To mitigate the existing challenges and move towards a more sustainable solution, PMC is taking proactive measures. The ongoing collaboration between PMC and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) holds promise. This collaboration aims to establish 11 new sewage treatment plants in various parts of the city. These plants, anticipated to be operational by 2026, aspire to bridge the gap between treated and untreated sewage water.
The road ahead
Jagdish Khanore, superintendent engineer of PMC’s sewage department, shares that the ongoing JICA project is underway. The project seeks to significantly increase sewage treatment capacity from the present 567 MLD to an impressive 863 MLD upon completion in 2026. This expansion in sewage treatment facilities aligns with PMC’s commitment to enhance water treatment capabilities, thereby tackling the pollution issue at its source.
The notice served to Pune Municipal Corporation serves as a wake-up call, emphasizing the urgent need to address the issue of river pollution caused by untreated sewage water. PMC’s collaboration with JICA signals a concerted effort toward a cleaner and healthier Mula-Mutha River ecosystem. PMC’s initiatives are anticipated to significantly reduce pollution levels and improve the river’s water quality as they progress, benefiting both the environment and the community.