Approximately 40% of the water supply to the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh comes from Upper Lake. Until 1947, the water quality of Upper Lake was so good that it required no treatment before supply to the public. However, due to the tremendous population growth of the city (from 70,000 in 1951 to 1.4 million in 2001) and rapid urban development, the lake has been subject to various environmental problems.
The Government of Madhya Pradesh implemented an integrated lake conservation program (1995-2004) that included a sewerage scheme based on the diversion, treatment and disposal of sewage outside the lake catchment area.
Due to undulating topography, work involved the laying of 68.73 km trunk sewer line and 24.78 km force mains; construction of as many as 10 large and 5 small sewage pump houses; as well as 4 waste stabilisation ponds for the diversion and treatment of the sewage. Emphasis was placed upon low cost, labour intensive and less energy requiring treatment technology in order to minimise operation and maintenance costs.
The State Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) was primarily responsible for the planning and designing of the scheme. The Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) was to be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the scheme. Subsequently a division of PHED under the control of the Project Directorate implemented the scheme, with the understanding that the scheme would be handed over to the BMC on completion.
In 2000, the BMC passed the by-laws making it mandatory for house owners to make individual sewerage connections to the new system. However, at the end of the project period in 2004 when the sewerage system was to be handed over to BMC, the BMC refused to take over the responsibility of operation and maintenance of the system.
The Government consequently decided to allocate a budget directly to PHED, on the understanding that it would take over the responsibility of operation and maintenance of the system through one of its divisions. However, progress in ensuring individual household connections to the main sewer lines has been poor, due to lack of willingness on the part of BMC to cooperate with the PHED.
Urban local bodies have the mandate for providing sanitation services and generate resources for operation and maintenance of the system. In this case the BMC had enacted the by-laws for individual connections well in advance. The manner in which the Municipal Corporation did a volte-face of its earlier decision reflects on its lack of ownership towards the project.
There should have been a separate platform for consultation among the Project Directorate, BMC & public representatives of the wards where the sewerage system was being implemented. This would have enabled the negotiation of an amicable solution for implementing household connection as per the bye laws of BMC.
Local bodies lack expertise and technical manpower for development works related to sanitation. Therefore, the relevant government departments execute the schemes and then hand over the works for operation and maintenance by the local body.
In the process it is easy for the urban local bodies to become disconnected from the process leading to problems in the future.
Importance of the case for IWRM
The case demonstrates that all the stakeholders, especially, Urban Local Bodies and the public representatives should be involved in the decision making from the very beginning of such projects, and a public information campaign seems a must to persuade them to cooperate with the government and the urban local bodies to improve the local environment.