Urban sanitation hopelessly inadequate: Parliament panel

New Delhi, April 30: A parliamentary panel has expressed “distress” over an overwhelming number of sanitation and drainage projects remaining incomplete, noting that 4,861 cities in the country do not have even a partial sewerage network.

The existing set-up cannot handle the problems of cities, including even mega cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai, noted the Standing Committee on Urban Development.

The panel has asked the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry to take proactive steps for completion of sewerage and drainage projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

“Almost 50 percent of households in cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad do not have sewerage connection. Only 21 percent of the waste water is treated,” the panel said.

“Of the 79 sewerage treatment plants under state ownership, 46 were operating under very poor condition and less than 20 percent of road network is covered by storm water drains. In view of this, sewerage system in India is suffering from poor maintenance.

“The existing set up simply cannot handle the problems of cities including mega cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai,” the panel added.

The report, which was tabled in parliament last week, noted that 4,861 of 5,161 cities in the country do not have even a partial sewerage network.

It said the sewerage disposal system in major cities like Delhi was releasing untreated water directly or indirectly into water bodies without removing harmful compounds despite court orders and this was causing severe environmental hazards.

“In view of this, the committee further recommend(s) that time-bound steps should be taken in this direction to stop releasing of polluted water into the river by strictly adhering to the Supreme Court’s orders and by establishing adequate number of sewerage treatment plants,” the report said.

The panel said in its report on the demands for grants (2012-13) for the ministry that sewerage, sanitation and drainage were significant focus factors under JNNURM but only a small portion of sanctioned projects had been completed.

“So far 108 sewerage and 71 drainage (including storm water drainage) projects were sanctioned under JNNURM. The committee is distressed to note that even after completion of the entire mission period (2005-06 to 2011-12), against the above sanctioned projects, only 15 sewerage projects and eight drainage projects have been completed till date,” the report said.

Against this backdrop, the committee strongly recommends that the ministry take proactive steps in completing the remaining projects at the earliest and generate more demands from all of the states about these projects by creating awareness during the 12th plan, it said.

The 108 sewerage projects approved under JNNURM are to the tune of Rs 14,624 crore, and drainage projects to the tune of Rs.8,248 crore. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have maximum sewerage and drainage projects under the mission.

JNNURM was launched on Dec 3, 2005 for seven years beginning 2005-06 with the objective of reform-driven, fast-track development of cities with a focus on bringing efficiency in urban infrastructure, service delivery mechanisms, community participation and accountability of urban local bodies towards citizens.

Based on the 2001 census, 65 cities including state capitals, urban agglomeration of religious, historic or tourism importance have been included in the urban infrastructure and governance sub-mission of JNNURM.

All other cities are admissible for funding under Urban Infrastructure Development of Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT).

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at prashant.s@ians.in)

IANS