The Sewage Block

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Goa’s record in sewage treatment dents Goa’s progressive image

A Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report has found Goa among seven states and Union territories that have made poor capacity utilisation of the existing sewage treatment plants. With just 37 per cent of the capacity of the sewage treatment plants in the state being utilised for treatment of sewage generated in urban areas Goa has cut a sorry figure. According to official data, Goa generates 112.53 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage (from urban settlements). The nine sewage treatment plants have capacity to treat 78.35 MLD, which works out to 69 percent of total sewage generation in the state. It is a sad state indeed that though sewage lines were laid years ago in Panaji, Margao, Vasco and other cities, many individual houses and residential complexes have failed to get connections.  There is also non-availability of sewer networks, forcing people to use conventional methods of septic tanks and soak-pits as an effective way for treatment of domestic sewage.

The Goa government has to immediately set to dealing with the various reasons the CPCB has cited for the under-utilisation of the STPs in Goa. These include lack of availability of sewer lines and delay in the initiation of household connections that bring sewage to the plants. The state government has assured the CPCB that all pending connection works shall be completed by 2021-22: we hope it keeps its assurance. There has also been delay with regard to the ongoing STP works including technology issues requiring upgradation of plants. The other problem faced by the state with regard to the ongoing construction of sewer networks is the higher water table. The state has an urban population of 9 lakh which generates 112.53 MLD of sewage. The state has set up capacity to treat just 78.35 MLD of sewage of which only 37 percent gets treated as of now, as the CPCB has found. It is also worth noting that over 30 MLD remains outside the ambit of treatment because of non-availability or lower number of house sewer connections. 

The Goa government has been trying to present the state as a high-income, progressive and developed state, but the reality is that this runs in its face as it has failed to address the basic issues of sewage treatment which is related to hygiene and sanitation. In a bid to present a rosy picture, the government declared Goa open defecation free (ODF) in 2019 even though thousands of houses were without toilet facilities and people continued to defecate in the open in various cities including the capital city of Panaji. The work on construction of toilets is still underway in many places and people continue to use open spaces to relieve themselves. The laying of sewage lines started decades ago but the works are still underway in many places. The inability of the government to make Goa truly ODF, with good and effective connection to sewage lines, proper hygiene and sanitation will lead to pollution of water bodies and create various health hazards.  Drawing up plans and making announcements will not help the state rid the problems related to sewage treatment and hygiene problems.

The government’s efforts in the past to build sewage connection had failed to yield desired results. As chief minister, Manohar Parrikar had spoken of bringing a law to make house owners liable for cognizable offence for failing to get their house connected with sewerage lines. In the present government, PWD Minister Deepak Pauskar announced in 2019 that sewerage network would be completed within one year but he failed to keep his promise. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had also announced that sewerage connections would be made compulsory for all households. He had given a warning that the government would snap the power connections of those who do not take a sewerage connection. The threats failed to deter the owners of houses. The government has now decided to bear the cost of providing sewerage connections to houses at a cost of Rs 50 crore. To ensure compliance by the people, the government should identify the houses without sewage connections and act tough against those who fail to abide by the rules.