CSE alumnus impact: How a green entrepreneur helped restore Kham river

Principles of a decentralised wastewater treatment system was put to use to bring about transformation

By Sumita Singhal
Published: Wednesday 02 March 2022
A story of a student turned green entrepreneur Photo: Sumita Singhal
Ecological Park Development of Kham River in Aurangabad, Maharashtra Ecological Park Development of Kham River in Aurangabad, Maharashtra

The revival of the Kham river in Aurangabad, Maharashtra is a fine example of how wastewater treatment technologies can be used to save the country’s waterbodies. 

Rising in the Jatwada hills near the city, the 65-km Kham river flows through Aurangabad before it meets the Nathsagar water body near the Nadikathche Gaon. Leakage from sewage systems, indiscriminate encroachment and dumping of solid waste has reduced the once seasonal river into a perennial flow of garbage. 

In 2020, EcoSattva, an Aurangabad-based organisation, started restoring Kham. The company works on treating wastewater or reusing water to support their projects related to green cover enhancement. It was co-founded by Natasha Zarine, who completed her CSE certification course on rainwater harvesting and decentralised wastewater treatment in 2014.

The programme helped her understand the fundamental principles of water conservation and decentralised wastewater treatment systems, exposure to ecologically sound water management systems and to become a part of the network of practitioners. 

Sewage contains 99 per cent of water and rest of 1 per cent has suspended solids, bacteria and other things. This huge amount of treated water can be used for gardening, washing and other non-potable purposes. 

The Ecologic Sewage Treatment Plants (EcoSTPs) built by EcoSattva offer a sustainable solution, which also has a positive environmental impact. In the EcoSTPs, an ecological system is created that speeds up the natural treatment process by using enzymes, plants, microorganisms and sunlight. It has zero power consumption and no maintenance cost. 

This river restoration project is being carried out by Ecosattva in partnership with Varroc industries and the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation and is aimed at reducing the solid waste and water pollution in the river. 

The project has been designed with a holistic approach that focuses on restoring and maintaining the health of the river through a long-term commitment from the residents, private and public sector stakeholders. All the restoration efforts have been based on research and application of appropriate technological, social, infrastructural and governance solutions. 

In the first year, the company worked to restore 11.9 kilometres upstream of the river and 7.6 km flowing by 30 wards of the city. With the help of a drone survey, 249 points were identified, where untreated sewage emptied into the river bed along with 16 fresh water springs in it. 

Sand mining and dumping of solid waste were also problems that had to be tackled. 

Phases of restoring Kham

Activities Rationale Focus Outcome
Riverfront EcoPark at cantonment bridge This is the point of entry into Aurangabad city Ecological restoration, public engagement, green space creation Around 14,000 square metre area covered in greening, 90-100 species planted,  around 20,000 saplings planted.
Upstream interventions on the river & nala Demonstrating upstream and systemic interventions that address the root causes of Kham river pollution and degradation as well as clearing legacy waste.  Mechanical cleaning of river & nala, pitching of banks, solid waste management planning & awareness, In-situ waste water treatment, barricading & plantation  15 kms stretch cleaned, 5 kms pitched, 100 sanitation workers trained, around 44 garbage vulnerable points eliminated
City-wide Kham river campaign Building a broad-based network and movement to support all interventions and create ownership regarding the Kham  Awareness and engagement Awareness about the river restoration project, behavioural change, resident participation

Riverfront redevelopment and creation of public spaces helped give visibility to the project. Kham restoration was also included in the Namami Gange project, with EcoSattva working closely with the civic body. 

Kham river ecological waterfront development 

Way forward 

The Kham restoration now plans to develop the riverfront and restore around 80,000 square metres along the river. The agenda includes:

  • Diversion of Sewage
  • Watershed Development & Restoration of ponds and springs
  • Urban connectivity through cycle & walking tracks
  • Eco-restoration & biodiversity corridors
  • Community Gardens and recreational spaces
  • Heritage structures integration

The story of Kham and its rebirth sets an example for other cities and civic bodies, who are grappling with the rising pollution levels in their rivers. 

The capacity-building initiative of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit, over the past decade under the aegis of School of Water and Waste (SWW), a unit established in 2018 has over 7000 alumni members.

They are change makers, practitioners, regulators and managers involved in pushing for innovative polices principles, innovative technologies and on-ground implementation strategies that lay the foundations for a water and waste-prudent society.

The capacity building programmes are aimed at filling up the gap raised due to lack of knowledgeable and skilled practitioners among municipal agencies and practitioners. 

SWW-CSE conducts regular annual workshops to re-connect with the alumni members and resource persons for evaluation and assessment. These sessions are aimed at achieving higher outcomes of capacity building interventions. A two-day ‘Impact Workshop cum Master Class’ was organised in August 2021, which was a part of the two-part series events to proceedings of the first ‘Impact Workshop cum Master Class ‘of alumni held on 29th-30th June, 2020

This articles shares the glimpse of the journey of one of our appreciated alumni and her contribution as a green entrepreneur. 

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