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The annual ritual of platitudes and recriminations voiced across the world sound so hollow and meaningless on this – the World Environment Day 2020. Overshadowed with the Covid-19 pandemic, the conservation of the planet Earth and elimination of human interference has again claimed the centre-stage. This earth shattering crisis has predictably spawned its own jargon. The new NORMAL has evolved.

 

However, the human behaviour sadly remains unchanged. The gross and repulsive crowd-mongering at the slightest hint of relaxation of economic activity is evidence of human folly and unrepentance. The underlying harsh message seems to be – “allow us this day to behave as we always did before the pandemic”.

 

Economic activity is the bulldozer that dozes away our nuanced responses to the environmental impacts. Our mild efforts to mitigate risks and damage to the eco-systems are in sharp contrast to the clamour for more and more consumption of the resources of our planet, the limitations of fixity of resources notwithstanding.

 

The most poignant casualty of our attitude has been WATER.

 

Water sustains all life forms of the planet but is available in limited quantity. Its per capita availability has declined to 25% during the last five decades. Most sources have dried up and water stressed areas have multiplied transcending all geographical boundaries. Local water sources in communities have been devoured by land sharks, rivers and streams have become wastewater carrying drains, seas have been polluted with micro-plastics and all manner of filth and waste.

 

Our ancestors were conservatives by nature, tradition and practice. They worshipped every life form and preserved the environment. The consumerism as it is practiced today was alien to their philosophy. They were also adept at recycle and reuse of scarce resources. As their descendants we have to now don the mantle of conservatism and practice their teachings and lifestyle.

 

Coming to water use, all the wastewater generated within a community has to be treated as a water source for recycle and reuse. This is the only solution to mitigatewater scarcity. It will also reduce exploitation of groundwater reserves and dependency on unpredictable rainfall. Climate change is a reality that should be addressed and its resilience developed for the future.

 

Speaking of major recycle-reuse case studies in India, the RCF Trombay commissioned a 23 MLD wastewater reclamation plant in December 2019, using raw sewage from MCGM.

 

The Koyambedu Reclamation Plant of 45 MLD supplies water to industries near Chennai.

 

In India, the recycle and reuse of treated wastewater is in its early days. However, considering the stark reality of water scarcity, it should not be very difficult to bring in a mindset change through well targeted information, education and communication campaigns to favour recycle and reuse.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic – sad as it is – seems to be the push and nudge, much needed in our quest for sustainability and conservation of the Environment.

– Col. Bhaskar Tatwawadi (Retd)
Technical Director
Tandon Urban Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

Col. Bhaskar Tatwawadi (Retd), an army veteran and a Civil Engineer from VNIT Nagpur with a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering (with Honors) from IIT Roorkee has over 45 years of professional experience. His 22 years stint in the Army, Corps of Engineers, included the construction of water treatment plants and the design of many sewerage and sewage treatment projects for military, naval, and air stations. Later, he has worked on many projects in water and wastewater management including design and execution of rural and urban water supply and sanitation schemes, the Visakhapatnam Industrial Water Supply Project (1998), construction of the BWSSB Water Treatment Plant of 300 MLD (2000 -01) and the first Chennai Metro-water Seawater Reverse Osmosis Plant of 100 MLD (2007). He has led design teams for several industrial wastewaters to recycle projects for automobiles and textiles industries.

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