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By Er. Q. S. Wamiq Ali

Water is one of the prime mediocre to sense the impact of climate change in the form of varied rainfall patterns and intensity; untimely floods and droughts; sudden rises in temperature and sea level which have been experienced by the people across India in recent years. According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (AR 6) released last year, human-induced anthropogenic activities such as the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil & gases), industrial emissions, and agricultural waste run-off are primarily leading to climate change. The rushing of anthropogenic activities enhances the global mean temperature of the Earth and causes “global warming.

Even wastewater systems that provide critical services to society are impacted due to sudden climatic events. For examples nuisance flooding spills and odor, water quality deterioration due to increased uncontrolled discharges, and damage to wastewater infrastructure in both urban and peri-urban settings of India. Many pieces of research show that the immediate and long-term implications resulting from these impacts are likely to be experienced widely across the social, cultural, environmental, and economic domains.

In India, wastewater generated from urban agglomerations is estimated to be 26.4 km3 annually and 28% of it is treated but disposal of domestic sewage in cities and towns is the biggest source of pollution in water bodies. All Class I cities and Class II towns together generate an estimated 33212 MLD sewage (assuming 30% decadal growth in urban population). Against this, the installed sewage treatment capacity is only 7933 MLD. This shows a huge gap of about 76% between sewage generation and installed Sewage Treatment plants (STPs) treatment capacity. Hence, to improve the water quality of rivers and lakes, there is a crucial need to increase sewage treatment capacity and its optimum utilization.

Various State Governments have prepared a mindful action plan in a short time frame to fill the gap between wastewater generation and installed treatment capacity through the installation of advanced and compact treatment technologies and extension of existing STPs but it involves huge carbon emissions from the sewerage system along with treatment process and recycling of wastewater and also energy-intensive processes. Therefore, it is very important for a developing country like India to show commitment to delivering net-zero emissions across operational and investment activities by 2040 through a reduction in power consumption, generating renewable electricity while using wastewater systems, and will be focused on delivering water and wastewater services resilient to more extreme and variable climatic conditions. Much of India’s wastewater infrastructure is vulnerable to the threats associated with changing climate change.

Nowadays, Government Bodies, utilities, practitioners, and researchers are growing their interest in mainstreaming resilience into urban wastewater planning and management but Increasing resilience is generally seen as an additional cost or extra effort, instead of a means to overcome project uncertainty that would unlock new opportunities for investment in the wastewater sector. Reviewing and updating design standards of wastewater systems to incorporate the latest knowledge on the impacts of climate change and eventually move to adaptive design standards as an example of a resilience approach. Climate change is not only a challenge to urban wastewater systems but also a driver for further development and modification of sewers and wastewater systems adaptive to climate-induced extreme events. There is a scope of future research on auditing the GHGs emission from wastewater treatment and re-use plants and the offset capacity of GHGs generation from wastewater reuse activities.

About the Author
Er. Q. S. Wamiq Ali is currently working as a Consultant in the field of Climate Change Assurance & Sustainability Services (CCASS) at Ernst & Young (EY) Associates LLP, India handling Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) at the Corporate level. He received a Master of Technology in Water Science & Governance from TERI SAS (TERI University), India. He has done his Bachelor of Technology in Water Resources Engineering from Allahabad Agricultural University (SHUATS), India.

He has been working in WaterIndustry since the year 2015. He has worked on several assignments related to hydrology, water resources engineering, water and sanitation, agricultural water management, urban water management, water and wastewater treatment, and policy advocacy. He published several research papers, a policy brief, and a book in peer-reviewed national and international journals.

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