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Dinesh Gehani, Regional Product Sales Leader APAC, GEA Group

India: India suffers from a huge water scarcity today due to rapid urbanization. Thus, recycling and sustainable management of water are imperative. One of the solutions to this is to reuse treated water. A large amount of wastewater remains untreated and ends up contaminating freshwater resources like rivers and lakes. The 2021 report of inventory of sewage treatment plants, published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) revealed a nationwide gap of 40.6 million m3/d in urban areas between the volume of wastewater produced and installed treatment capacity. So, while urbanization on one side offers immense opportunities for economic development, on the other side it presents multiple challenges.

The creation of infrastructure for waste management such as sewerage networks and treatment facilities has not kept pace with the burgeoning population and rapid urbanization. With more than 40 million m3/d of sewage currently untreated, the sector will need significant investment and innovative models for financing.

The outlay of ₹1.41 lakh crore for Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) 2.0 and the launch of Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban) with the budgeted expenditure of ₹2.87 lakh crore (implemented over five years ) in the budget of 2021-22 were strong steps towards bridging the gap between wastewater generation to installed treatment capacity. This brought opportunities for private investors and water sector players to create new bankable projects, especially with a number of large utilities planning to reuse treated effluent to reduce freshwater needs.

As a next step, the union budget of 2022-23 needs deep focus on defining detailed policy framework and monetization models for reuse of treated water and biosolids.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • The budget should outline a plan where the industry is encouraged to use treated water by giving substantial carbon credits and tax benefits for such use.
  • Biosolids which are a by-product of wastewater treatment are a rich source of nutrients, energy, and excellent fertilizers (sub to class A). The budget can add a framework and promotion of industry in this area to package and supply these biosolids to farmers and other users. The growth of the industry in this area will help fulfill a strong need for the development of biosolids reuse models and make it attractive for engineering companies to invest in this technology.
  • Another step would be to be a private partnership in the solid waste management value chain from collection to treatment to revenue generation from clean energy and fertilizer making. This, in turn, will further encourage marketing, distribution, supply chains, and trade exchanges here to complete the circular economy cycle. Investments here will change the perspective of wastewater treatment and solid waste management from a regulatory liability to an asset + product building industry.
  • Setting up special education and research programs to encourage innovation in this field. An exciting development recently has been the successful application of a process to extract biopolymers from the sludge. Such biopolymers can be used to produce seed coating material for young plants to develop faster and to be less vulnerable to diseases. With investment in R&D in this area, we foresee many other applications in the future.

Dinesh Gehani is passionate about engineering sustainable solutions promoting a circular economy. He is currently leading product management & business development for the Asia Pacific in the GEA group. He has been working in the field of environment, water use, wastewater treatment, and centrifugal separation technology for more than a decade. His vision is to introduce pioneering solutions for the water sector, to address the growing need of providing water across the world.

GEA has decades of know-how in the wastewater business with decanter centrifuges as its core technology and almost 130 years of experience in centrifugal separation technology. The GEA Decanter centrifuges are designed for high sludge and biogas yield in municipal wastewater treatment. Clarifying decanters separate solids from a suspension, resulting in a clarified liquid that is virtually free of solids. The high degree of standardization and the modular, compact design of the decanters ensure easy integration into established processes with little need for adaptation.

The environmental decanters (operating) at various industrial effluent and municipal wastewater treatment plants across India are supporting a sustainable environment by reclaiming 4.64 billion liters of water from the sludge annually for further treatment in the system and to return it to the water resources of the world >1850 Olympic swimming pools and expected to add another 4.32 billion liters of annual water reclamation in coming years.

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