CSE rebuttal to HUDA statement in the Hindustan Times (Gurgaon edition)

Last week the Hindustan Times ('Huda picks holes in CSE sewage report' dated 03.05.2012) quoted a HUDA chief engineer in Panchkula as saying that most figures in CSE's report pertaining to Gurgaon were factually incorrect. The only correction issued by the anonymous official was that the 2021 water requirement would be 918.75 million litres per day (MLD), through its two dedicated canals — Gurgaon Water Supply Channel and NCR canal.

The CSE report, titled 'Excreta Matters', mentions Gurgaon's water requirement in 2021 will be 666 million litres per day (MLD) whilst infrastructure to supply 573 MLD will be put in place. We clarify that firstly, these are not projections, as mentioned in the HT article, but information obtained by a CSE researcher during a one-on-one meeting with Pankaj Kumra, superintending engineer at HUDA. Secondly, the HT article goes on to state that HUDA’s figures are based on CPHEEO norms of 150 litres per person daily. The CPHEEO standard also provides an allowance of 15% for leakages. So as per the projected population projection (3.7 million in 2021) and supply of 175 litres per person daily, Gurgaon's demand works out to 650 MLD. This is close to the figure the HUDA superintending engineer provided CSE.

The HUDA engineer makes no mention of the more serious problem of sewage treatment. On 'The Property Show' of NDTV Profit, Praveen Kumar, the HUDA administrator, claimed water supply in 2021 would be 937 MLD. Applying a thumb rule that 80 per cent of water that enters a household leaves as sewage, Gurgaon will generate an estimated 750 MLD of sewage by 2021. However, the seriousness of this escapes the unnamed chief engineer in Panchkula and the HUDA Administrator. CSE mentions in its report that planners are obsessed with water, not sewage. HUDA has provided figures to CSE that indicate treatment capacity in Gurgaon will be upgraded to only 370 MLD; therefore, more than half of Gurgaon’s sewage in 2021 will remain untreated. They have shot themselves in the foot with their statements and clearly the city will continue to 'drown in their excreta'.

Additionally, there is no talk of the rate of groundwater abstraction in Gurgaon, which is reportedly more than thrice the quantum replenished by rains. There is no mention of plans to collect and utilise rainwater or improving local water systems. There is neither any data on the number of borewells functional in Gurgaon (estimated to be more than 30,000) or the quantum of groundwater abstracted. The Deputy Commissioner's office is yet to complete an inventory of wells and other abstraction structures as directed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In February last year, the High Court ordered the city’s authorities to restrict the use of groundwater to drinking and domestic purposes. In May the same year, the High Court asked the Central Ground Water Authority to provide the details of groundwater levels, calling for a moratorium on construction. None of the directives have been carried out. The Court in March earlier this year directed the Authority to file a comprehensive affidavit by the May 1, 2012 outlining what it proposes to do to preserve and regulate groundwater use. Failing to do so, CGWA has sought a further extension of the Court's deadline.

Gurgaon’s lack of sewage management has the potential to snowball into a dispute with Delhi. It currently discharges its untreated sewage northwards into Delhi's infamous Najafgarh drain. This discharge is presently unnoticed, but may lead to a row between city authorities as it will disturb Delhi's sewage and flood control arithmetic. Conventional infrastructure to treat sewage is estimated to cost between Rs 2-4 crore per million litre. CSE has stressed the need to re-invent and re-engineer solutions, and look at alternatives for waste water treatment employing a mix of low cost and natural treatment technologies that are less land and energy intensive. Instead of picking holes in reports, HUDA and the Corporation must plan better.