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“Untreated Sewage is Killing our Water” says India’s Vice President

There is a serious lack of foresight in urban sewage and wastewater management in India. This has led to a situation where India – which has the capacity to treat less than one third of its sewage – can actually treat only one-fifth. Untreated Sewage is Killing our Water:” Vice President Hamid Ansari said today, speaking at the Second Anil Agarwal Dialogue on water and wastewater management, titled ‘Excreta Does Matter.

The dialogue of this years event focused on the issue of urban water and wastewater management. Around 200 participants from across India congregated in this event, which, says CSE director general Sunita Narain, “is perhaps the only gathering of this kind in the country where the civil society gets an opportunity to join ranks and have a dialogue with other stakeholders”.

The dialogue is aimed at furthering the agenda of CSE’s Seventh State of India’s Environment, a comprehensive survey of water and wastewater management in 71 Indian cities, titled Excreta Matters. The study finds most cities lacking a basic policy direction on how best to tackle issues of demand, supply and treatment of water, and of management of sewage.

Speaking at the event, the Vice President said: “What comes out of the report is troubling. Cities have used up or polluted their local water resources. To quench their ever increasing thirst, India’s expanding cities have started sourcing water from further and further away. This has pushed up the cost of water, increased leakages to around 40 per cent, and sparked conflicts. Cities have to pay a heavy price for infrastructure and power to fetch this water: electricity accounts for nearly a third of an average urban water utility’s bill.”

“It is befitting that CSE has instituted these Dialogues which is not only a tribute to the outstanding environmentalist but also an useful platform to take forward his valuable legacy. Anil Agarwal (the Founding Director of the event) was a visionary who realized earlier than most that for sustained economic growth and development in the country, a sustainable environment was a necessity,” he added.

Sunita Narain added; “Cities plan for water, but forget about their waste. More water equals more waste, as almost 80 per cent of the water cities consume come back as wastewater. Cities have no clue how they will convey waste of all, treat it, clean rivers. 78 per cent of our sewage is officially untreated – and it is an optimistic figure, as we think it could be as much as 85 per cent and disposed off in our water bodies as well as in our groundwater.”

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