A conversation with Sukumar Devotta from NEERI

Zero Liquid Discharge Water Treatment

In the process of reaching out to experts, I interviewed Mr. Sukumar Devotta, who is a Former Director of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and has been involved in various activities related to Air Pollution, Solid Waste Management, Waste Water Treatment, Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Modeling. Here is an excerpt from the interview.

Akanksha Saluja: In your opinion what are the biggest challenges in extending the supply of clean drinking water to all?

Sukumar Devotta: With population increase and climate change, the per capita availability is bound to decrease in the next few decades. We are also making the issue worse by polluting both surface and subsurface water by dumping untreated sewage into rivers and other bodies and dumping municipal solid wastes on the river banks in almost in all major cities. Therefore, we need to address this problem as has been demonstrated to some extent in Gujarat for river management. Second is the water budgeting for industries. With very low cost, there is no incentive to save water. We have to increase awareness on the need for water budget among sectors for bench marking and impose a limit with water recycling. Water recycling is one of the best solutions for sustainability. There are states like Tamil Nadu (TN) where zero liquid discharge (ZLD) is being imposed for some polluting industries like leather and textiles. These models may be replicated in other states.

A.S.: What cross-sectoral partnerships can you envision that would bring about innovative solutions to these challenges?

S.D.: The potential approach is to encourage Public-Private Partnership as in Tamil Nadu. Centre-State-Industry can get together with some financial partnership to achieve water recycling including ZLD as is being done in Tamil Nadu. Technologies do exist for ZLD but these are not financially viable. Therefore, with Government partnership through financial incentives, it is possible to make the projects viable. This is likely to lead to sustainable water conservation.

A.S.: What initiatives are you aware of that are geared in this direction?
S.D.: Initiatives like river management in Gujarat, water recycling, Zero Liquid Discharge, are some of the examples.

*This is the third of a series of interviews with experts working in water-related issues. Stay tuned for more interviews in the coming months, leading up to Design Public 4.
For past interviews, look here:
First series
Second Series

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