All houses in the city must be connected to sewerage network
THE revelation that less than 20 per cent of houses and business units in Margao are connected to sewerage network is appalling. Of over 52,200 residential and commercial units in the commercial capital of the state, only 4,459 units have been connected to sewerage lines till the end of last month. As per the 2011 census, the Margao town has a population of over 87,600 people in 20 wards of the municipality. The state government has spent crores of rupees on laying a sewerage network so that sewage can be treated and discharged scientifically and any health or environment hazard can be prevented. It has been nearly a decade and a half that the sewerage system has been operational in Margao, but most people have not come forward to avail the benefits. With a large number of households and commercial establishments not connected to the sewerage system, it is obvious that the sewage is released without being treated, which could prove dangerous.
Despite the fact that getting sewerage connection is mandatory by law, most people have sought to ignore the government directives. The concerned authorities should have used their powers to persuade owners of houses and commercial establishments to do so, but they have failed in this regard. Margao is already facing waste management problems owing to the mess in the operation of the Sonsoddo waste disposal facility. Release of untreated sewage could pose a serious threat to public health. If sewage is disposed without being properly treated it can contaminate groundwater and environment. Untreated sewage could enter rivers and other water sources and pollute them. Margao is already in the grip of serious concerns as it has been found that a large number of tenements along the River Sal or its tributaries were releasing sewage into the river, adding to its pollution. Taking note of the grave situation, the state government has belatedly started cutting the water and power supply to those violating the norms and not obtaining the mandatory sewage connections.
The owners of houses and commercial establishments cannot blame anyone but themselves for not having sewage connections. The fees for getting the sewerage connection is as low as Rs 500 for domestic and Rs 1,000 for commercial but the applicants have to bear the cost of material. There is another option for those who come under the ambit of JICA-operated part of the sewerage line by which the applicants can pay between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000 to get sewage connection directly. The public works department officials have blamed residents and commercial unit owners for their apathy for delay in getting the sewerage connections. The officials have gone on record to state that in case of multi-dwelling buildings, the connections have not been sought as the housing societies of these buildings are either non-functional or indifferent. Margao is probably sitting on a huge health calamity as many housing societies, especially the older ones, are still continuing to use soak pits despite the soil reaching its maximum capacity to soak the sewage.
It is time for the state authorities to enforce the existing laws, especially the clauses of the Public Health Act, which provides for compulsory sewerage connections. Rather than leaving it to the owners of houses and commercial units to get sewerage connections, the authorities have to be proactive in getting them to do so to prevent health hazards and calamities. While ensuring that each and every house and commercial unit is connected to the sewerage system, the authorities should also find answers to problems that could be encountered in the days ahead, particularly those relating to local terrain, which could hamper flow of sewage. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the state government to act swiftly on untreated sewage being discharged into rivers including the River Sal. Decomposing sewage uses oxygen from the surrounding water and if the discharged sewage is in larger quantity the amount of oxygen for fish and other aquatic animals and plants in rivers will be insufficient which would result in their mortality. The authorities must not delay a day more in getting all houses and business units in Margao connected to the sewerage network.