Too little water and too much waste is Hyderabad's bane. City needs innovative solutions: says CSE

  • New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) releases Excreta Matters, its 71-city study of how Indian urban centres manage their water and sewage.

  • The Musi has been turned into the city’s sewer, while the city draws water from sources over 100 km away

  • Look at the reuse options, says CSE -- there is enough wastewater  to meet the water deficit in the city 

Hyderabad, July 25, 2012:  Hyderabad’s water-sewage story is the story of every town and city in India. The city has turned its back on its old water sources: the Hussain Sagar, Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar, built around the river Musi, have become cesspools in which the waste of the city goes, while Hyderabad’s search for water takes it further and further away. Today, Hyderabad draws its water from the distant Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, over 100 km away and is even eyeing the Godavari to quench its thirst.

Hyderabad’s water-sewage saga was the subject of the release of a study followed by a panel discussion here today. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi-based research and advocacy body, released its Seventh State of India’s Environment report, titled Excreta Matters in the city. The report is based on a survey of 71 Indian cities and how they have managed their water and sewage, Hyderabad being one of them.

Adhar Sinha, managing director, Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) released the report in a function jointly organised by CSE and SaciWATERs (South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies), a policy research organisation based in Hyderabad. 

Water sources
According to the CSE study, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) supplies water to roughly 70 per cent of the city’s population living within the municipal limits. In the surrounding municipalities of the greater Hyderabad metropolis, the network of water supply covers only 65 per cent of the area and barely 40 per cent of the population. 

Water, however, is supplied only on alternate days for two hours in the municipality of Hyderabad and one hour in the surrounding areas. 

Hyderabad also abstracts groundwater. As per the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), the city withdraws 178 million litres a day (MLD) from the ground, but according to the HMWSSB, private borewells extract 240 MLD.  

Even as the city extracts groundwater, it has done little to improve recharge. Its lakes and water bodies, which would have been the natural recharge areas, are stressed, being encroached upon for land or simply covered up with sewage. As a result, water levels are plummeting. 

Destroyed: the famous lakes
Hyderabad had many lakes, providing water for drinking and recharge for groundwater. But over the years, the water has disappeared, and the land has been usurped for buildings. The city has literally gobbled up its lakes and tanks, as is shown in a study done by Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS).  The study cites reports where waterbodies covered roughly 2.5 per cent of the geographical area in 1964, which reduced to 1.5 per cent by 1990. Hyderabad, according to revenue records, has over 678 waterbodies within a 30-km radius of the city. The combined storage of these tanks (if they are properly managed and rejuvenated), could be more than the water which is supplied from the Krishna. 

Sewage disposal and treatment
Though Hyderabad claims to that its sewage network cover approximately 70 per cent of its area and reaches about 60 per cent of its people, the surrounding municipalities with a population of 0.2 million and an area of over 370 sq km have virtually no sewage network. In other words, 80 per cent of sewage remains untreated as it gets disposed off in drains and water bodies.  

The city’s main dumping ground for its excreta is its very own river, the Musi. The rest of the waste makes its way to the lakes and other waterbodies. Currently, the city of Hyderabad treats its sewage at two places. A small 20-MLD STP at Hussain Sagar (also known as Madarsa Makta) discharges its treated effluents into the lake. The plant does not depend on closed underground sewage drains to convey the waste to it. The wastewater from open drains is diverted to a low-head diversion dam, from where dry weather flows are pumped into the sewage plant. After secondary treatment, the effluent is discharged into a holding pond and then into the Hussain Sagar. “This model of treatment of sewage to generate water again is clearly an important innovation,” said Nitya Jacob, programme director-water at CSE.

Pharmaceutical sector
Hyderabad neighbours the country’s biggest pharmaceutical hub, Patancheru. The complex generates a huge amount of chemical wastes, which researchers say, is full of antibiotics. Till now, most of this waste, supposedly treated in common effluent treatment plants (CETPs), was making its way down the Manjira river, the city’s water source. 

Now there are plans to build pipelines from the industrial estate to bring the waste to the city of Hyderabad where it will be mixed (and diluted) with municipal waste. This would mean that this chemical industrial waste, after treatment, will be re-treated in the Amberpet STP, the second plant to be built in the city. The mixed waste, treated and re-treated, will then be discharged into the Musi. The farmers downstream will not just be using domestic treated waste, but a treated chemical cocktail.

There is little in the city’s plan which explains how it will overcome its current problems – too little water and massive sewage to treat. “The only new element in the plan is the objective to recycle and reuse 50 per cent of the waste, which will give more water from waste,” notes Jacob. He concludes:“Hyderabad needs to look at various reuse options to curtain the crisis which looms ahead.”