Dumping of household and industrial sewerage into the Ganga should be a thing of the past by end-2017, says Rohit Dembi, Head - IT Enabled Services, NJS Engineers India.
Tell us about your company...
NJS Japan was established in 1951; we started with small projects in India and developed a DPR (detailed project report), so earlier when JICA requested them to go to India and do a DPR, NJS was doing some business by that time. So NJS India was born in 2008. Dr Uday Kelkar is the MD of the Indian company, and he is also a Director-Operations for the Japan side also. Right now we might have more than 200 employees, more than 150 consultants.
What are the projects you are working on?
We are working on five-six major projects, including the Ganga project and the Delhi Yamuna Action Plan. We are putting the finishing touches on a project with the Hyderabad Municipal Metropolitan Authority. And in Guwahati, we are working as a Project Management Consultant and Institutional Capacity Development Consultancy on a major project. The important part in Guwahati is that we had to do everything from scratch - so that makes our life a little easy. For Varanasi it was slightly difficult.
All of your projects are in the field of water and wastewater; is that the specialisation of the parent company as well?
Yes. NJS Japan has expertise (in water and wastewater projects), and we generally do not do projects in any other categories.
Apart from design and consulting, do you also do or want to do, development, construction and investment?
I don't think construction or ownership of infrastructure is our business. The Japanese company has its policy. We work on the advisory side only, and maybe undertake supervision. That is all our company is doing up till date. I don't know in the future.
A lot of Japanese money, in terms of soft loans, very concessional interest loans, is today coming into India, because of the two countries' interesting and friendly relationship. Should I say that means stronger opportunities for your companies also?
Yes, of course. But it is not only the JICA project, recently we have got an ADB-funded project for Delhi, it is a rehabilitation of the Wazirabad command area. It is a big area and supports 500,000 connections. That is in a negotiation phase, and so we are not only doing work with JICA, we are working with ADB also.
But, everywhere you are working, there is an international financing agency, am I correct?
It's not like that. We are working in generally very few places, like in Varanasi the client told us that you should take this DPR and small projects. Generally we don't encourage that, but we are working in some other places also.
Now let's come to the Varanasi project. First tell us a little bit about the project.
The project is all about the impediment of pollution in the river Ganga. The objective was to improve the water quality. Two rivers, the Varuna and Asi -the 'Varanasi' name is actually on the basis of the Varuna and Asi rivers - flow from the north and south of the city. So, the objective was to make them pollution free, so no direct sewage can be dumped into these two rivers. The master plan was done in 2003, by the Japanese company on the request of the Government of India. At that time a team from JICA came and developed a sewerage master treatment plan for 2030 - that was the limit. They identified four places, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi and Lucknow. And finally they prioritised Varanasi and sanctioned the loan for Varanasi. Within coming days they can sanction the loan for Kanpur also.
When was the loan sanctioned?
The loan was sanctioned in 2011, but we were in by July 2012.
What was your scope and how much have you completed?
Our scope was general, because the design was already done. Ours was construction supervision. We were supposed to develop an action plan. So, we did an action plan and that covered HR, financial management, and I especially put focus on Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and Management Information Systems (MIS), and a lot of funds were allocated there.
Under development of state-level GIS, with this technology, we could for example locate where the pipelines are. This made asset management easy, for new as well as old pipelines. We have completed 70-80 per cent of the project under our purview, with the help of former and current employees of the Varanasi Municipal Corporation - especially for old pipes. They show us the location and some other places we found out on our own.
That is why the work was very difficult. Finally somehow we completed the sewerage project, except the water project will be done by the consultant, who will be hired. For MIS, the UP department of urban bodies had developed MIS for the entire state and had developed a website for the entire area. Actually, initially we put in our budget to do that. Later on they told us that they already have the system, so we had more focus on the GIS side and we had to integrate our GIS into their MIS.
How did you bring in Bentley products into this project?
Bentley was used to check the design and we used 'Sewer Gems'. This is because we asked UP Jal Nigam to give us old maps, we did a lot of surveys, we compiled it in one place and we finally did the analysis. The Bentley tool helps us do this analysis and is a very good tool. This will save money for us and the owners also.
What about the O&M aspect?
The O&M will be done by the Varanasi Municipal Corporation. But we have also kept some budget towards that because as per the action plan, we have to place one e-knowledge centre that will aid in their O&M. But we know that once we build up the e-centre it won't sustain for a long time. So, what we are planning is to put up the budget at least for three years.
Once their thought process changes and they adopt this, then they will run it. Who constructed the project?
The budget has been allotted and the consultant has to come. So, what we have completed is the design and the budget allocation. The project designs were given in 2012, we floated tenders, and contractors were coming in. Now there are five packages in this sewerage project and almost two packages are already completed - the e-centre was done in 2015. Also, work has been going on at a very fast pace over the past six months due to PM Modi. There are five contractors each for one package.
What is the status? Are all packages done?
Packages 1 and 2 are almost completed.
As far as Package 3 is concerned, the way it is going on, I think it will take the next six months for being commissioned.
What is your estimation, about when the waste will stop getting into the river Ganga?
Once this treatment plan will be commissioned, that will be the time. Within six months to one year maximum, the way the work is going on, it will be completed by 2017-end. By implementing this project, almost 85-90 per cent (of wastewater) will be treated and the rest 10 per cent will be there. But other treatment plants are being developed by UP Jal Nigam.
This is the wastewater from families and houses?
No, this includes industrial sewage also. It is a complete raw sewerage solution, including domestic and industrial waste.
What is the current status of the project?
I cannot tell you right at the moment. But it is an entire system. All the gutters will be processed through this treatment plant. The garbage has been transported, it has been collected, and it will be pumped through the treatment plant. That work isn't completed. The other component is non-sewerage, which is very important in terms of aesthetics of the city - because Varanasi is the most demanding place. People stay in the slums, there is open defecation; so in this project, 205 community toilets have been allotted.
So, who is the owner and who is the customer in this project?
The funds have been provided to the National Mission of Clean Ganga (NMGC), but the actual stakeholder is UP Jal Nigam. That is under the Ministry of Water Resources and the fund has been provided to them and they give it to the local state bodies, i.e., UP Jal Nigam, because they do the construction and Varanasi Municipal Corporation and the Jal Sansthan (under Varanasi Municipal Corporation) or the Jal Kal Vibhag, which does the O&M.
You are hopeful that it will be completed by 2017-18?
Yes, absolutely. I can see (the progress) because I go intermittently and stay for one week, and I can see the change. I can see the awareness drive started by PM Modi - it has helped us a lot. The people are cleaning the ghats - this never had happened when I was working there in 2012. People are cleaning ghats everyday and they are taking the oath. We have our NGOs also, we have some funds, and they are helping us and creating awareness - and changing of mindset is a very important and difficult task.