New Delhi: The Delhi government is planning to hand over the city’s common effluent treatment plants, or CETPs, to public-private partnerships (PPPs), claiming that they are not fully utilized under the societies entrusted to manage them currently.
The government built 10 CETPs in the past decade to treat waste water from industrial units. Nine of them were later handed over to societies, whose members were local industrial units. The remaining one, at Lawrence Road in north Delhi, is run by government-owned Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corp.
Pollution unchecked: A view of the Yamuna.
It was not immediately clear how the government intends to take CETPs back prior to inviting bids from the private sector. Some experts speculate that the government may use a clause in the Delhi Common Effluent Treatment Plants Act, 2000, which empowers it to transfer the operations of CETPs to other agencies or organizations in case the societies do not perform well. The plants together have a capacity to treat more than 130 million litres of waste water a day.
The government, said Delhi chief secretary Rakesh Mehta, is in consultation talks with the International Finance Corp. (IFC), the private finance arm of the World Bank, to work out a PPP model. IFC is expected to submit its report in the next four months, he added.
“We may go for a PPP model now because many of them (CETPs) are not doing well. And there have been complaints by industry representatives that their waste water is actually not being taken to CETPs,” he said.
“IFC will look at issues such as the size and volumes of the plants and how private companies can recover their costs and how they will be financed,” says Mehta. “Some of them (CETPs) are giving out their places for banqueting and other commercial purposes,” he said.
According an April 2008 report filed by the Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for the National Capital Region, or EPCA, the plants processed about 30 million litres per day—about a fifth of the installed capacity—in February.
A Supreme Court-appointed committee, which is entrusted with monitoring the status and functioning of these plants, cited “no connectivity” between some effluent-generating industries and the plants for the underutilization.
The government plan is expected to face opposition from the societies.
“We will definitely oppose it (the PPP plan). We will not allow the government to burden small (industrial) units like this,” says S. K. Tandon, general secretary of the Confederation of Delhi Industries and CETP Societies.
“If CETP societies are defunct, it is the responsibility of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and the industries department to find out why,” says Bhure Lal, chairman, EPCA.
“I think a public-private partnership alone will not solve the problem,” says Suresh Babu, deputy coordinator, river pollution unit for the Centre for Science and Environment, a non-governmental organization whose director Sunita Narain is a member of the Supreme Court-appointed committee. “What we need is some regulatory or fiscal instruments for industries to use the plants,” Babu says.