A shocking fact came to the fore on World Environment Day yesterday — Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has been paying lakhs of rupees every year to Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) as cess for dissolving excess sewage water in Mula-Mutha River.
As per details available, MPCB has been recovering this charge from the civic body for the last 15 years. Currently, 218 MLD (million litres per day) of sewage water is getting mixed into the river. “The cess is calculated at the rate of 30 paise per 10 litres of sewage water. So, considering the huge quantity of sewage water, the civic body has paid Rs 50 lakh recently to MPCB,” said VG Kulkarni, head of the water distribution department, PMC.
Currently, Punekars consume 1,125 MLD water for drinking and domestic use. Out of that, 750 MLD turns into sewage. There are 10 sewage treatment plants (STPs) in the city, which recycle 532 MLD of the 750 MLD sewage water. The recycled water is then supplied for domestic use. The remaining 218 MLD sewage water is ejected into the river. “The existing 10 STPs are inadequate considering the total use of water. 10 more STPs are in the offing so more sewage water can be reused,” said a PMC official.
But interestingly, while functionaries from the civic body are claiming that they pay Rs 50 lakh as cess for sewage water, MPCB officials say that the charge is for water expenditure and not pollution. MPCB recovers consumption cess from industries also. “We have nothing to do with the amount of sewage water that goes into the river. We recover a cess for consumption from every civic body. We then transfer the collected amount to the central government,” said Anil Mohekar, regional officer of MPCB.
“The stand of MPCB shows its apathy towards river pollution. PMC and pollution control board have different versions on why this money is being collected. There is a lack of transparency in the workings of MPCB. It has lost credibility. River will not get cleaned by accumulating cess. We have been demanding an amendment in the role of MPCB. It only issues notices and permissions. The board should work for eradication of pollution and not for control. The current oxygen level of the river is zero. For the survival of the flora and fauna, the basic level should be four,” said Sunil Joshi, convenor, Jalabiradari.