Even as work on the delayed Colva sewage treatment plant (STP) is nearing completion after endless deadlines, the Sewerage Infrastructure Development Corporation of Goa Ltd (SIDCGL) and PWD may have to grapple with the contentious question of whether the authorities have done the spadework to get the households and commercial establishments connected to the sewerage line?
Or, will the Colva STP go the Margao way, where the two state-of-the-art STPs, the 20MLD and 6.75MLD plants are lying underutilised, virtually turning them into White Elephants?
When The Goan contacted a SIDCGL official to shed light on the status of the Colva STP with the High Court deadline of March 31, 2022, going abegging, the official maintained that the work on the laying of the “treated sewage water” discharge line is nearing the end. The official went to the extent of saying that work on the Colva sewage project is in the final stage of completion.
The SIDCGL official, however, had no answer when questioned whether the authorities had kick-started the process of issuing connections to the commercial establishments and households. The official said the SIDCGL had invited applications from households and commercial establishments around a year ago, with an appeal to take the connections. “The corporation had even deputed its officials to the Colva gram sabha to spread awareness over the STP facility and the sewerage connections the establishments and households are required to obtain since the STP is ready for commissioning,” the official added.
That exercise was carried out over a year ago when the STP was ready for commissioning and before the villagers raised objections to the plan to discharge the treated sewage water off Colva beach.
The SIDCGL official, however, hastened to push the buck on the Tourism Director to play a key role in getting the hotels and restaurants to connect their establishments to the STP once commissioned.
“The High Court has appointed a Tourism Director as the nodal officer for better coordination among the agencies to ensure the Colva STP is commissioned at the earliest. The Colva STP can start operations on a positive note if the Tourism Director, in his capacity as the High Court appointed-nodal officer, gets the hotels and restaurants to connect their premises to the sewerage network. Housing societies and houses can follow suit,” the official added.
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by the Colva Civic and Consumer Forum way back in the year 2011 after the Forum Secretary Judith Almeida found that unscrupulous establishments have been letting their waste and sewage into the drains before the waters found its way into the colva creek.
Petitioner Judith Almeida speaks
If there is any likelihood of the STP and laying of lines being completed, it is the responsibility of the Tourism department, Pollution Control Board, panchayat and SIDCGL to get in touch with all the hotels and other commercial establishments to connect their premises to the main line.
It is for the panchayat to call a meeting of all multi-housing complexes and guest houses and inform them about connecting their lines to the main line.
Have all the government bodies come together and chalked out their line of action to prevent pollution and put the STP to maximum use? The way this is progressing, it will not work.
This is an issue to be dealt with by the various authorities if the operation of the STP is to be taken to its logical end.
I hope an audit of the quality of work of the infrastructure to connect lines to the STP has been done. Or we may have raw sewage overflowing from the chambers.
Lessons have not been learned. The best case is Margao STP, considered a white elephant. Getting the STP working requires simple application of mind and will if the authorities are serious about making it operational at the earliest. After all, crores of taxpayers’ money have been spent to contain the groundwater pollution,” she said.
No payment policy multed for sewage connections
With the discharge of raw sewage into river Sal from the stormwater nullahs emanating from Margao, the high-level meeting of officials chaired by Margao MLA Digambar Kamat has deliberated to explore the possibility of releasing sewerage connections without payments from the individuals.
A glance at the minutes of the meeting, which has been filed with the affidavit in the High Court in respect of the PIL concerning the Salpem lake pollution, Kamat is believed to have issued directions to release sewerage connections to residential colonies/buildings and houses where the pipeline is already laid.
In this respect, it is worth mentioning that the officials have been directed to issue the connections to the residential units without seeking any payments from the individuals as charges towards sewerage connections.
The minutes further revealed that the authorities may recover the charges for the execution of the work from the water bills given the notification in force to that effect.
It was further decided that only the commercial establishments may directly pay for the sewerage connections to the Sewerage Infrastructure Development Corporation of Goa Ltd or get it done through a private agency in consultation with corporation officials.
The decision taken at the high-level meeting of officials comprising Secretary Environment Arun Kumar Mishra, Managing Director SIDCGL Amar Vazirani, along with officials of the PWD, Pollution Control Board, Margao Municipal Council comes against the backdrop of the fact that though most parts of Margao plays host to underground sewerage network laid years ago, commercial establishments and housing societies are still not connected to the network.
Resultantly, the wastewater finds its way into the stormwater nullahs which later enter river Sal, contaminating the lifeline of Salcete 24×7. This is evident by the fact that actual sewage treated in the 20MLD plant is hardly 6MLD and 2MLD at the 6.75MLD, indicating that the two plants are grossly underutilised.