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2013-03-04 21:05:50

Vice President Hamid Ansari expresses concern over scarce water resources and inequity in access to water at CSE’s Second Anil Agarwal Dialogue, ‘Excreta Does Matter’

“There is a serious lack of foresight in urban sewage and wastewater management in our country. This has led to a situation where India – which has the capacity to treat less than one third of its sewage can actually treat only one-fifth. Untreated sewage is killing our water:” Vice President Hamid Ansari was lamenting at the situation at the Second Anil Agarwal Dialogue on water and wastewater management, titled ‘Excreta Does Matter’. Ansari was the Chief Guest.at the Dialogue.

Speaking on the occasion, the Vice President said: “What comes out of the report is troubling. Cities have used up or polluted their local water resources. To quench their ever increasing thirst, India’s expanding cities have started sourcing water from further and further away. This has pushed up the cost of water, increased leakages to around 40 per cent, and sparked conflicts. Cities have to pay a heavy price for infrastructure and power to fetch this water: electricity accounts for nearly a third of an average urban water utility’s bill.”

“It is befitting that CSE has instituted these Dialogues which is not only a tribute to the outstanding environmentalist but also an useful platform to take forward his valuable legacy. Anil Agarwal was a visionary who realized earlier than most that for sustained economic growth and development in the country, a sustainable environment was a necessity,” he added.

The two day annual get together of activists, experts, scientists and lawmakers is organised by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in memory of its Founder Director, Anil Agarwal. This year, the Dialogue focused on the issue of urban water and wastewater management. About 200 participants from across India congregated in this event, which, says CSE Director General Sunita Narain, “is perhaps the only gathering of this kind in the country where the civil society gets an opportunity to join ranks and have a dialogue with other stakeholders”.

The dialogue is aimed at furthering the agenda of CSE’s Seventh State of India’s Environment, a comprehensive survey of water and wastewater management in 71 Indian cities, titled Excreta Matters. The study finds most cities lacking a basic policy direction on how best to tackle issues of demand, supply and treatment of water, and of management of sewage.

Narain added, “Cities plan for water, but forget about their waste. More water equals more waste, as almost 80 per cent of the water cities consume come back as wastewater. Cities have no clue how they will convey waste of all, treat it, clean rivers. 78 per cent of our sewage is officially untreated – and it is an optimistic figure, as we think it could be as much as 85 per cent and disposed off in our water bodies as well as in our groundwater.”

The Dialogue, which extends till 5 March, concluded today’s proceedings with a unique ‘Lake and River Warriors’ meet, which brought together representatives from activist organizations which have been fighting some of the most contentious battles over water in India.

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