Applications of smart data solutions on Waste & Water Management are abundant but work needs to be done

The rapid urbanisation in India has prompted a commensurate increase in the need for and the use of water, one of life’s most essential necessities.

There can be few bigger influences on our national life and prosperity than the effectiveness of water and wastewater management services. Water utilities are progressively faced with the ongoing challenge of doing more with less against a backdrop of powerful regulatory forces, ageing assets, and little interaction with the end consumer. The focus on accurate, relevant, timely information and greater stickiness with the customer is of paramount importance.

Our flagship event Startup Window was organised on the 22nd of February, 2018 and the theme was “Waste & Water Management”.

The wastewater treatment plants market in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15% till 2018, in terms of industry revenues. Urban India is facing a stiff challenge of providing for exponentially growing infrastructural needs of a burgeoning urban population. Therefore, increase in population coupled with increased urbanization and the expected mandate for municipal corporations for treating and using sewage water for non-portable purposes will help the sewage treatment plants to hold a major share in waste water treatment plants market by 2018.

The emerging trends from this sector are as follows:

  • Single Stream Recycling: It refers to a system in which paper fibres, plastics, metals and other containers are mixed in a collection truck instead of being sorted by the depositor into separate commodities and handled separately throughout the collection process.
  • Electronic Waste: Electronic scrap components, such as CPUs contain potentially harmful components such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, or brominated flame retardants. Recycling and disposal of e-waste may involve significant risk to health of workers and communities in developed countries and great care must be taken to avoid unsafe exposure in recycling operations and leaking of materials such as heavy metals from landfills and incinerator ashes. In India, startups like Attero Recycling recycles nearly 500 tonnes of such trash annually.
  • Membrane Filtration Technology: Membrane filtration has become a viable and recognized method of water treatment, producing a water quality safe for human consumption, improving the properties of a waste stream destined for downstream waterways, and offering a multitude of additional process advantages.

Water scarcity is a formidable challenge of humankind attributing to global warming and burgeoning population. In many developing countries, water scarcity acts as an impediment to progress. Abysmal water quality results in 5000 deaths in India consisting mostly of children and has a detrimental effect on society. On the other hand, floods have caused thousands of deaths and trillions of damages since the beginning of the century and it is going worst every year since global warming seems to increase the violence of climate events.

Waste collection and rubbish disposal play a pivotal role in the global cleanliness and sustainability drive with people’s health and the conservation of resources being the responsibility of the government. Planning the waste management and recycling the rubbish produced in the country is an arduous task which involves both logistical planning and scientific knowledge to balance the impact on the environment and ensure the cost-effectiveness of the process. To reduce the pressure on government agencies, a legion of privately-managed organisations is also implemental in these waste management and recycling programs.

While the rules are very progressive, the implementation has been poor. Today’s enterprises need to formulate and implement smart data and asset solutions that create superior customer satisfaction, optimization of assets, meaningful insights from data, and leave minimal impact on the environment.

Startups Pitch:

Startup pitching to jurists at NUMA Startup Window

Three startups pitched in this event. They were as follows:

Pure Paani — Pure Paani is focused on developing a series of hand-powered, high-flow water filters and pumps which resident entrepreneurs can use to provide water treatment services to their neighbours at a sustainable price. They shed light on the fact that 90% of the diseases in Bangalore are caused by drinking water rich in impurities.

SmartTera — SmartTera is developing an urban data platform to help cities and communities manage their water and sewage services. They have a zero discharge policy and their primary users include Office Techparks, Hospitals and Residential Areas.

Swaach Sustainable Solutions/RaddiConnect — Swaach Sustainable Solutions provides a free doorstep pick-up service for offices, institutions, households and schools to dispose their recyclable waste (Raddi) Thereafter, they supply this recycled waste to authorized recycling centres, ensuring safety and sustainability. They provide decentralised wet waste solution in the B2C model and aims to work on external producer responsibility in the B2B model.

Panel Discussion:

Panel Discussion on challenges and trends in Waste & Water Management

The panel speakers included Anand K, Consulting Engineer- Materials at GE Power Engineering, Indrajit Nag, Joint Manager at Suez Environnement, Vishwanath S, Director at Biome and Nitish Malhotra, Lead- Consulting, Business Development, Smart Cities.

Anand K, Consulting Engineer- Materials at GE Power Engineering

He stated that global changes such as population growth, climate variability, ever-expanding industrialization and urbanization combined with pollution grievously affect water availability and lead to chronic water shortages in a growing number of regions. India has managed to meet such water requirements for different usages with a remarkable development of water resources. However, preserving the quality and availability of fresh water resources has slowly and steadily become a pressing environment challenge.

Many Indians still do not have proper access to water. If the share of water wasted was brought down to 15 per cent, millions of people could have their share of water without a need for more water to be produced. In addition to leakage detection, it is possible to install smart systems thereby enabling less use of energy in the pumping solutions. If this is implemented, the water can be supplied ceaselessly to the recipients who will be able to get access to water at all times. The need for storage of water will be redundant simultaneously thereby freeing up precious resources of municipalities which are now used to build huge water storage towers.

Over 70% of the global water resources being saline. Economic desalination of sea water is an excellent option to meet the future shortage of sweet water particularly to meet the human consumption. With the help of solar power, desalination can be a viable alternative to meet the water needs in coastal areas.

Recently, the government has announced a scheme for promoting decentralised solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers. The scheme is devised to provide extra income to farmers by offering them with an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands.

Indrajit Nag, Joint Manager at Suez Environnement

He expressed that India’s water sector will grow significantly with steady participation from private operators owing to the combined effects of intense urbanisation, growing industrialisation, rising living standards among the population, increasing pressures on water availability and more stringent regulations on environmental protection and pollution control.
However, water mismanagement is a major problem in cities. In urban local settings, mismanagement of water is characterized by poor governance which includes faulty policies, conflicting interests among water users, lack of public participation, poor implementation, lack of funds and lack of accountability. This results in poor service delivery and inequitable distribution.

SUEZ has been actively supporting the city of Bangalore for several years in its water resources management. The Group has built and operates drinking water plants and wastewater treatment plants. Since 2013, SUEZ has also improved the drinking water distribution to inhabitants by utilising helium gas to reduce the water leakages considerably on the network. The Helium Leak Detection (HLD) technology developed and patented by SUEZ can detect invisible leaks and has been adapted for cities of developing countries where intermittent supply, low pressure and noisy environment renders detection with traditional technique complicated.

Vishwanath S, Director at Biome

He stated that Sewer Mining or Sewage Mining has the potential to relieve overtaxed wastewater systems, trim water and wastewater infrastructure costs, reduce energy and chemical use and save water for drinking purposes. This strategy is used to combat water scarcity and saves more water in rivers, lakes and streams — which is especially crucial during droughts and summer months when river flows are low and water demands are high. It combines decentralized wastewater management and water reclamation. convey, treat and dispose or reuse municipal and industrial wastewater from small communities, buildings and dwellings in remote areas, individual public or private properties. Wastewater flow is generated when appropriate water supply is available within the buildings or close to them.

Decentralized wastewater systems treat, reuse or dispose the effluent in relatively close vicinity to its source of generation. They have the purpose to protect public health and the natural environment by reducing substantially health and environmental hazards. In locations with developed infrastructure, decentralized wastewater systems has the potential to be a viable alternative of the conventional centralized system, especially in cases of upgrading or retrofitting existing systems.

Decentralized applications are also necessary in cases of new urban developments where the construction of the infrastructure is not ready or will be executed in future. In many countries and locations, the infrastructure development especially roads, water supply and especially wastewater/drainage systems is executed years after the housing development. In such scenarios, decentralized wastewater facilities are mandatory in order to prevent public health and ecological problems.

Nitish Malhotra, Lead Consulting, Business Development, Smart Cities at Saahas Zero Waste

He opined that a good amount of municipal solid waste gets discarded in the open dumps, posing health risks to residents in their vicinity. This may result in a high risk of contamination of ground water,surface water, soil and air. The city is facing serious problems due to existing disposal practices of generated waste incurring high cost due to lack of proper infrastructural facilities. However, with an increasing population and the growing necessities of the Information Technology (IT) sector, the local authorities are struggling to provide the proper solid waste management system to a satisfactory level. For the purpose of evolution of proper management of solid waste, it is necessary to review the status of the current scenario of its collection and disposal methods.

He also stated that from an entrepreneurship standpoint it is imperative to cut corners, save costs and deliver things faster but attributing to the principles of an NGO background of Saahas Zero Waste, they have been able to build a very organic and true brand. This ensures that absolutely no waste leaves the organisation in terms of being dumped or if it’s a low value waste with no attainable value, it also goes to an authorised landfill side. The Zero Waste Program predominantly for bulk waste generators which include large tech parks, residential complexes and institutions. These bulk waste generators are mandated by law to segregate their waste and ascertain that it is managed by vendors empanelled by the local municipal corporation.

For all the clients that Saahas Zero Waste provides end-to-end services for managing waste for all their clients. They have devised a strategy to not only provide front-end services in terms of setting up the right infrastructure for segregation and processing of waste, but also in terms of supplying the required posters and signage.

In developing countries like India, the problems associated with wastewater reuse stem from its lack of treatment. A one size fit all solution can not solve the problems. The set of challenges are relative and hence identifying the real problem and creating customizable solutions to tackle it should be the need of the hour. The focus first should be on adaptive modern technologies that not only treats wastewater, but are also easily added-in to the existing infrastructure — thereby having a lower cost implication. The awareness of the need and the importance of wastewater treatment among the general public, authorities and policy makers can be instrumental in a large share of wastewater getting proper treatment with the aid of novel technologies. The participation of stakeholders hailing from public, private and social sectors representing different socio-economic activities is required. This is preponderantly necessary to break ‘silos’ between different sectors and activities, reach a common understanding and vision of challenges and activities, understand and balance interests and needs of different stakeholders and induce behavior change and realistic demand management.

By Rusha Sen

About the Author: Rusha Sen is a Strategic Partnerships Manager at NUMA Bengauru. She loves all forms of social interactions and is a bibliophile and a fervent writer having contributed to India’s biggest dailies like Economic Times and Hindustan Times.

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