Creating a Sustainable Ecosystem: Digital initiatives for water and waste management

Digital initiatives for water and waste management

There is a need for proactive action owing to growing concerns around water shortage, lack of access and water contamination. With rapid climate change, it is now critical to integrate technological solutions for the management of water utilities while maintaining a sustainable footprint. An approach called “One Water” is being adopted by city authorities with the support of national programmes such as the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transfor­mation (AMRUT) and the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) to enable a resilient and comprehensive ecosystem. It is a multidimensional approach that attributes value to all the water resources in the ecosystem while embracing partnerships and inclusion and utilising watershed areas.

An overview of some of the digital initiatives taken by urban local bodies (ULBs) in the water and waste­­water segments and sustainable solutions…

Water supply

The Government of India has launched national programmes like AMRUT 2.0 and the JJM to unify the actions towards water secure cities. AMRUT 2.0 aims at providing tap water connections, universal coverage of sewerage/septage services to households, among other services with the support of central funding. The JJM also envisions to provide access to safe and adequate drinking water through household tap connections by 2024 through sustainable ways like recharge and reuse of wastewater, rainwater harvesting and water conservation.

The AMRUT 2.0 programme has pushed the implementation of a common digital platform for project progress and funding. The online portal, which covers all the proposed projects in an area, enables the ULBs to submit their city water balance plans and city water action plans. Meanwhile, eight broad digital platforms are being implemented under the JJM. These are the JJM integrated management information system, JJM dashboard, JJM water quality management information system, an internet of things platform, a mobile application, analytical tools, public finance management system, the JJM website and the Rashtriya Jal Jeevan Kosh portal.

An innovative solution has been adopted in Chennai to provide potable water to passengers through conversion from air. Atmospheric water generators have been used at Chennai airport, Alandur and Koyambedu metro stations to convert air into drinking water. Reverse osmosis technology is deployed in these generators to dispense water at the concourse levels of 41 metro stations in the city. Three of these generators were installed at an investment of Rs 0.6 million under a corporate social responsibility project undertaken by a consultant.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka government launched India’s first digital water bank called “AQVERIUM”, which aims to enhance the water management system. The digital water bank gives fundamental information to resolve water pollution issues with the help of research- and analytics-based insights and evidences.

Wastewater treatment

To address challenges such as discharge of untreated sewage into the Yamuna river, the Delhi government is working towards improving the sys­tem of wastewater treatment in the capital region. Recently, in March 2022, it inaugurated a fully automated sewage treatment plant (STP) with a treatment capacity of 318 mld, using state-of-the-art technology at the Coronation Pillar in North Delhi. The plant is run on a supervisory control and data acquisition system. The sewage, which used to go directly into the supplementary drain, is now being treated at this STP through the pumping station in Burari, Delhi.

In another development, in August 2022, the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) developed the intelligence self-administered self monitored automatic chemical dosing technology to treat water at four STPs at Yamuna Vihar and Okhla. This technology helps in reducing the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS) to the standard levels, and runs with an artificial intelligence software that shares real-time data and monitors the plant health. As per previous recordings, the Okhla plant showed 5 parts per million (PPM) BOD and 8 PPM TSS levels, whereas it showed 8 PPM BOD and 7 PPM TSS levels for the Yamuna Vihar plant, which was earlier 125 PPM and 90 PPM. These are under the prescribed standard for wastewater, that is, less than 10 PPM.

Sequential batch reactor (SBR) technology has been used by the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) to treat sewage at STPs. It is a technology that is used to treat industrial and municipal waste and requires less space than moving bed bioreactor technology, which was earlier used in its STPs according to HMWSSB. Another advantage of the SBR technology is lower maintenance cost. A 14 mld STP at Fox Sagar, a 5 mld STP at Vennela Gada, and a 28 mld STP at Pariki Cheruvu are some of the STPs in Hyderabad that have adopted the SBR technology.

Sustainable steps

As of August 25, 2022, the Vijayawada Munici­pal Corporation (VMC) has created an action plan for reviving its STPs in order to reduce carbon emissions. VMC has taken actions to modernise the plants in eight parts of the city and plans to invest Rs 0.1 billion funded by the United Nations Industrial Develop­ment Organi­za­­tion as the first instalment and Rs 0.49 billion from the Corporation General Fund. The Ajit Singh Nagar (with 20 mld and 40 mld capacity), Jakkampudi (20 mld) and Ramalin­geswara Nagar (20 mld) plants are being revived as part of the plan to reduce carbon emissions and support electricity generation.

In another development in September 2022, the Delhi government has planned to develop the lakes in Iradat Nagar with an aim to provide water to the areas that were not getting supply from the DJB. The first phase of the project has begun and an early completion is being targeted. The first phase involves the revival of 250 reservoirs and 23 lakes. The aim of this project is also to protect the city from urban floods and to construct reservoirs to avoid blocked drains. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. The issue of water shortage in the city is expected to be addressed by this project. To revive the lake, recycled water will be used from the 1 mld natural STP in the Ghogha drain, which is based on the wetland system and treats wastewater without electricity. The Irrigation and Flood Control Department has received orders to increase the capacity of this STP for the year-round functioning of the lakes.

Looking ahead

The government is undertaking many advanced digital initiatives in the water and waste sector. It is also encouraging private sector participation in the sector. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, on September 9, 2022, announ­ced the India Water Pitch-Pilot-Scale Start-Up Challenge with the aim of addressing challenges in the urban water sector while identifying viable technological and business innovations. Financial support of up to Rs 2 million each will be provided to the selected startups for work in the fields of water supply and water management, among others.

A survey, called Pey Jal Survekshan, has also been launched in 485 cities under AMRUT 2.0. It assesses the cities on five key areas – water utility services, sewer connections and used water utility services, health of water bodies, non-revenue water, best practices and innovation – while creating a healthy competition for water security in cities. Such national and local initiatives are key to ensuring a cleaner and smarter future for water management in the country.