75 years of people’s power: How this Haryana Gram Panchayat managed its grey water through ponds

The pond-based system treats wastewater by combining three different biological processes — anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic — and using zero energy

By Sushmita Sengupta, Swati Bhatia, Ravi K
Published: Sunday 14 August 2022
Cleaning an anaerobic pond sludge in Kurak Jagir village, Nilokheri block, Karnal district (Photo: Nitin Verma, assistant engineer, Gram Panchayat, Kurak Jagir)

India marks 75 years of her independence August 15, 2022. In these 75 years, it has become a fully-functional democracy.

A democracy is all about the power of the people. Down To Earth celebrates the power of the people of India by presenting a collection of 10 villages and districts across India where people have worked to radically improve their lot through better solutions for drinking water and sanitation.

Mismanagement of grey water in the state of Haryana created overflow of drains, causing stagnation of water in the lower reaches of the villages. During the monsoons, the situation worsened as grey water mixed with rainwater, spreading everywhere and giving rise to health concerns.

Gram Panchayats in Karnal district faced mismanagement of grey water, which largely discharged into open drains and clogged with solid waste. During heavy rains, the water overflowed and waterlogged the low-lying areas of the Gram Panchayat.

The state government of Haryana passed the Haryana Pond and Waste Water Management Authority Act, 2018.

The Act’s objective is “to establish an authority in the State for development, protection, rejuvenation, conservation, construction and management of pond, utilisation of pond water and treatment thereof and for management and utilisation of treated effluent of sewage effluent treatment plants for the purpose of irrigation, thereby reducing stress of over exploitation of ground water and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.

The Act has enabled the state government to create an official authority that handles various functions in management and sustenance of pond systems.

The change

Kurak Jagir Gram Panchayat in Karnal district implemented a fully operational village-level grey water treatment system by 2017. Before 2016, the inhabitants of Kurak Jagir faced multiple public health issues mainly due to inadequate management of grey water.

Comparison of treatment efficiency (as per NGT standards) of waste-stabilization ponds in Kurak Jagir village

Under the initiative launched by Karnal district, this Gram Panchayat, housing 1,600 inhabitants, discharges all the grey water into a pond-based wastewater treatment system through the network of storm-water drains.

Kurak Jagir Gram Panchayat adequately manages solid waste, which prevents clogging of drains and ensures smooth and consistent flow of grey water towards downstream areas of this village.

The treatment system comprises a series of ponds, the waste-stabilisation pond system. It consists of two anaerobic ponds, two facultative ponds and two maturation ponds.

Grey water is conveyed into the pond system through a storm-water drain provided with a screen chamber and an overflow arrangement for high-rainfall days. In facultative ponds, three distinct mechanisms occur — in the upper layer aerobic conditions prevail, followed by anoxic and anaerobic conditions at the bottom of the pond.

The water from the facultative pond passes to the maturation pond. Due to lower organic loading of the wastewater coming out of facultative pond, it is well oxygenated throughout their depth. The main function of the maturation period is destruction of pathogens.

Thus, the pond-based system treats wastewater by combining three different biological processes — anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic — and using zero energy. According to the rule of the thumb, around 60 kilolitre per day (KLD) of grey water is generated in the Gram Panchayat, which is equivalent to water supplied to a population of 400 in a Class I city.

The Gram Panchayat received funds of Rs 44.96 lakh from Swacch Bharat Mission (Grameen) and the Finance Commission to construct a 100-KLD treatment system. Funds for operation and maintenance are partially received from MGNREGA and the revenue base of the Gram Panchayat.

Flow of grey water from inlet to outlet of pond system of waste-stabilization ponds in Kurak Jagir village

The Gram Panchayat has three major sources of revenue, including revenue generated by leasing out lands, revenue from collection of property taxes and user fees for water supply.

Treated wastewater monitored at the final outlet shows that the wastewater is treated and can be used for the irrigation and pisciculture. The last maturation pond in this village is currently used for pisciculture. The lessee pays an annual fee of Rs 1 lakh for the pond.

Operation and maintenance

The operation and maintenance of the pond system is taken care of by the Gram Panchayat. The first activity — removal of solid waste from drains where grey water enters into the preliminary screening and grit tanks — is done once in two weeks.

This is done with Panchayat funds. The other activity is removal of settled solids from anaerobic ponds, done once in two to three years. The funds are sourced from MGNREGS. The treated wastewater from this treatment system is used for pisciculture.

This is a part of Water Compendium published by the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi

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