Shortcomings in planning and direction included: non-preparation of strategy, non-ensuring of encumbrance-free land for sewerage schemes, lack of proactive action with regard to upgrading of overstressed STPs, design deficiencies in STPs/ septic tanks, and lack of control over the disposal of sludge.
Planning and direction
Deficiencies in State-level and ULB-level planning
According to the CPHEEO Manual on Sewerage and Sewage Treatment (Engineering), planning for sewage management and sewerage schemes is required at the State, region, and community levels. It was expected that the agencies involved in the State, i.e. UDD and IPH Department would have formulated a Strategy document and Action Plan outlining the vision and approach to be adopted with regard to sewage management along with identified strategies and action points. HPSPCB had directed (June 2015) the ULBs to submit an action plan for setting up sewerage systems for collection, treatment, and disposal of sewage. The following were observed:
(i) There was no macro-level plan or strategy document for the establishment of sewerage systems in urban areas over a defined time period. In the absence of macro-level planning, schemes were being sanctioned as and when ULBs would send requests for schemes. Schemes would be approved/ sanctioned by UDD based on the availability of funds and prioritization policy.
(ii) This practice of ad-hoc approval of schemes without any strategy or plan resulted in nine ULBs (including district headquarters61: Bilaspur and Nahan) not having any sewerage systems in the State.
(iii) Even though some of the sewerage networks and STPs in test-checked ULBs had become overstressed, neither the ULBs nor the IPH divisions concerned had initiated timely action to increase the capacity of these networks/ STPs. Further, STPs in the test-checked ULBs had non-functional components and design deficiencies which resulted in poor quality of effluent being released into surface water bodies.
(iv) There were long delays in the completion of sanctioned schemes due to land disputes, most of which were due to a lack of a mechanism to secure encumbrance-free land before sanctioning of schemes or starting of works.
(v) The 16 test-checked ULBs and the respective IPH divisions had not prepared any plan for ensuring treatment and disposal of sewage through septic tanks as per norms: community-level septic tanks constructed by IPH divisions had design deficiencies and treatment of effluent and disposal of sludge had not been ensured as per norms; ULBs were not exercising supervision over construction of domestic-level septic tanks and soak pits resulting in unscientific disposal of sludge.
In the exit conference the Secretary, IPH accepted the facts.
Recommendation: The State Government may ensure holistic planning through the formulation of strategy for sewerage systems, initiate timely action for addressing sewerage network and STP capacity issues, devise mechanisms for securing encumbrance-free land before sanction/ execution of schemes, and ensure strict control over the disposal of sludge from septic tank systems.