Till now, the Government of India (GOI) used to give grants to the Municipalities to establish the STPs. The Municipalities were happy to construct the STPs but not to run them. Now the GOI has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for two Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) at Varanasi and Haridwar on “Hybrid Annuity Model” (HAM) under the Namami Gange program (attached here).
Private parties will build the STPs with their own investment under this model. The Government will contribute a part of the investment; say 40% of the project cost, in the first five years through annual payments (annuity). The remaining payment will be made on the basis of the performance of the project. The private company will not get the payment if the STP does not operate. We appreciate these projects of Government under Namami Gange to take such important step to save our National River Ganga.
Before we assess the suitability of the HAM, let us understand what the problem is with the existing STPs. According to a report (Page 29, Chapter 5) of Central Pollution Control Board, major problems related to these plants are as follows:
- In most of the cities/towns included in Ganga Action Plan, is proper sewage system does not exist and the sewage flows in open drains causing scenic and odour problems in rainy season. The runoff water generally mixes with sewage.
- In many cities, the sewage is not reaching the STPs due to non-existence or non-functioning of sewage transport system.
A Major problem, not mentioned in the CPWB is that the Municipalities are not giving the funds for running the STPs.
The CPWB report suggests that (report Page 29, chapter 5):
- Pumping of sewage to the STP needs to be addressed on priority basis.
- There should be separate fund allotment to the operation and maintenance department of the STPs so that their regular functioning should not be interrupt.
The Hybrid Annuity Model does not address these issues. There is no provision of pumping sewage. Also there is no provision of providing funds for running the STPs. It is almost certain that the Municipalities will still not provide funds for running and the HAM STPs will not work. The whole project will only create litigation between the private company, Municipality and GOI regarding who is responsible for the non-performance of the STP. Such litigation-prone projects will not clean the Ganga
The only way is for GOI to buy the treated water from the STPs. Then alone there will be incentive for the private companies to run the plant. GOI must not create such futile projects under the Namami Gange Program.