Sewage treatment system for West Kochi hits fund hurdle

The three decentralised sewerage treatment systems for West Kochi under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (Amrut) scheme have hit a funding hurdle, further delaying the project that was conceived in 2016.

With the rate quoted by the three contractors being higher than the estimated cost, the State government and the Kochi Corporation are now going to have to decide who will bear the excess cost. The proposed treatment plants are to come up in Edakochi North, Edakochi South, and Perumpadappu.

The estimated rate for the three systems was ₹41.8 crore, and the rate quoted was ₹54.09 crore. The tender was approved by the corporation council last year and was also approved by the State Level High Powered Steering Committee chaired by the Chief Secretary.

The steering committee had suggested that 50% of the excess amount of ₹12.28 crore would be borne by the State government and the other half by the corporation, requiring the civic agency to pay ₹6.14 crore.

But UDF councillors opposed the suggestion that the corporation would have to make an additional payment. The civic body’s financial state will make it difficult to bear the cost, they said, adding that the support of local residents would have to be ensured before the project could take off.

“But we cannot abandon the project. We will approach the Chief Secretary with the suggestion that the State government take up the entire excess cost,” Mayor M. Anilkumar said.

Additionally, the corporation will also have to bear the cost of operation and maintenance of the systems, which amounts to ₹7.68 crore for five years and has already been tendered.

Each treatment plant will have a capacity of 1.4 million litres per day.

Sources at the corporation said the cost of the project had gone up since the earlier estimate had been prepared using prices from 2016. Stakeholder consultations had already been held with residents in the divisions, though in some areas there could still be some opposition to it, they added.

The sewerage plants will use a small bore system which carries and treats leachate from waste. The sludge from pits in houses will have to be removed once in three years and taken to the plant on Willingdon Island. The expenses for vehicles to remove the sludge have been covered in the operation and maintenance cost. After the system is set up by contractors, its functioning will depend on the corporation’s ability to take it up efficiently, the sources said. This system was found to be effective for West Kochi, where the water table is high. Large pipes cannot be laid at a steep gradient to carry the sludge as well.

Abhilash Thoppil, Congress councillor representing Edakochi South, said the area where the sewerage plant was to come up was densely populated, and it might be a better idea to implement it and ensure its proper functioning elsewhere before it was set up in a residential space.

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