WASTEWATER MANAGEMENT AND RECREATION PARK IN ORISSA, INDIA
Bhubaneswar’s spiraling population growth has resulted in excessive wastewater generation, currently estimated at 180 million litres per day (MLD). The increased population and waste load, combined with the absence of a regular sewerage system has led to untreated and semi-treated sewage, highly concentrated during the dry season, flowing into the city’s water bodies and creating unsanitary conditions. The Bhubaneswar Master Plan envisaged the development of green belts and recreation spots at feasible places in the city to address the issue of sanitation as well as to promote and strengthen tourism to the city.
The first site chosen by the Bhubaneswar Master Plan was strategically located. However, due to lack of adequate funds and expertise the Government was unable to achieve this goal alone.
2. Key partners
- NICCO Parks, a recreation company, is responsible for the daily operations and management of the facility as well as the marketing and promotion of the park
Bhubaneswar Development Authority liaises with all external agencies to obtain necessary approvals etc.
Government of Orissa provided land
The Investment Promotion Corporation of Orissa Ltd. Provided the loan
Xavier Institute of Management (XIM) established the wastewater treatment system
India Canada Environment Facility provided financial support for the wastewater treatment syst
The partnership between NICCO Parks and the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) was signed in 1996. The joint sector company, BDA-NICCO Park, was registered in 1997 and construction of the park started in 1997. Commercial operations were initiated in 1998 and the activity is ongoing.
The key activity of the project was the building and operation of an amusement park for residents of Bhubaneswar and those from other parts of Orissa. The park was build around a wetland, as identified in the Master Plan of Bhubaneswar. Other activities included the development and renovation of the lake on the site and the development of a wastewater treatment facility based on biotic methods of pisciculture and duckweeds.
A joint sector agreement between the two partners has been signed and a joint venture company, registered under the Registrar of Companies Act, has been set up. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the joint sector company and NICCO, Kolkata, for technical inputs, and a similar MoU has been signed with Xavier Institute of Management (XIM) for wastewater treatment.
The amusement park is now fully operational, although it faced several delays due to natural disasters such as a cyclone and floods. About 80 local people, trained by NICCO, Kolkata, are employed in the park. To date about 1.2 million people have visited the park, with 12 per cent coming from outside of Bhubaneswar. Fun rides are added to the park on a regular basis, in addition to a variety of promotional activities in order to retain public interest and ensure that the number of visitors does not diminish.
The lake in the park has been developed for boating facilities and a filtration plant has been set up for the treatment of water. Given the level of contamination however, the filtration plant was found to be inadequate for cleaning the water. With XIM support, a wastewater treatment facility using biotic methods has also been set up as part of Project Water. Based on duckweed and fish rearing, this required construction of sedimentation and fishponds. Initiated in September 2003, the water treatment activities have yet to be completely operationalized. Also still to be fully implemented is the sale of fish, which is expected to generate the resources for the lake’s maintenance.
The main objective of the project is to make available varied recreation facilities at a cost affordable to the middle income population. Other objectives include improvement in the sanitation situation in the city area; improvement in the quality of water; resource recovery through the primary cleaning process; and development of a cost-effective model for wastewater treatment.
The first objective was achieved successfully with more than 1.2 million visitors into the park to date. Progress towards the sanitation of the wastewater is underway. Civil construction work for wastewater treatment has been completed and a citizen society has been set up. With the inauguration of the wastewater facility in August 2003, treatment is underway with duckweed and fish. Presently, wastewater treatment activities are being undertaken with XIM support and ICEF funds. It was proposed to hand over the facility to BDA-NICCO Park by September 2004.
Impact on the poor
As the project is not specifically targeted at the poor, there are limited direct benefits to this group. One benefit has been employment opportunities, although not to the most vulnerable. An indirect benefit has been the improved quality of water downstream from the project site, where it is a water source for the poor, who use it for many daily tasks.
Of the amount budgeted for the park, Rs 12 million was invested as equity by the two partners. A Rs 27.5 million loan was taken from IPICOL, Rs 2.1 million from the Orissa State Finance Corporation and Rs 1.6 million from internal revenue. Internal revenue in the park is raised through tickets, sponsorship, marketing kiosks, paid rides and private parties. While resources for the park have largely been sufficient, those for the wastewater treatment have not been. To date Rs 6.5 million has already been spent, despite the planned hand over of the project to BDA-NICCO Park by the end of 2004.
Overall sustainability of the project is closely linked to its financial and social sustainability. With a commercial focus brought in by NICCO, financial sustainability is ensured until such time that public interest in the park becomes self-sustaining. However, in order to sustain this market base and public interest, the recreation facility has to progressively innovate to attract repeat visitors. Thus, while at the present level the practice is financially sustainable, sustaining public interest in the long term requires enhancement of the facility, which in turn requires additional resources.
The project has responded to the specific need in Bhubaneswar for a recreational and wastewater treatment facility. Other cities, which do not have the same recreational gaps as presented by Bhubaneswar, may find replication of such a practice unnecessary or unsuitable. However, if similar development needs along with government commitment were found in the city, then replication would be feasible. The experience of this partnership has revealed that it is not only the presence of an enabling regulatory environment, but also the willingness of partners that makes this approach feasible and successful. Hence, replication is the function of the commitment of individuals.
The wastewater treatment activity is technologically suitable for small cities with a population of about 0.5 million with no industrial pollution present in the sewage. With larger populations the level of pollutants increase and with high levels of BOD, fish used for water treatment are unlikely to survive.
The features of the practice, however, that make it particularly amenable to replication are its cost effectiveness; its potential for resource recovery in making the water treatment component sustainable; the simplicity of the technology used; and its amenability to being effectively managed by the local community.
7. Lessons learned
The absence of guaranteed attractive returns from public development activities often deters private companies from becoming involved in such activities. The key innovation of this project is the linking of wastewater management with a commercial activity that is likely to bring benefits to both the community and to the commercial operators. By linking the development goals to a financially viable activity (recreation), in such a way that the commercial activity is dependent on the non-commercial one, the incentive for private investment is strengthened.
On the technological aspect, the low cost and simple technology used in the water treatment process make it highly amenable to local management. The potential for resource recovery, which is linked to its sustainability, also contributes to its innovative nature.
A key differentiating feature, and one that has played a decisive role in the project’s success, is the way the partnership has been structured to optimize the strengths of each partner, while minimizing the potential for policy or operational conflict. This is primarily the result of the creation of the operation as a joint venture and the formation of an independent company to manage it, with staffs that do not belong to either of the partnering organizations. At the same time, interaction at the senior level between the partners is encouraged and ensured through the Board of Directors. This selective interaction between the two partners has several advantages; however, there are also potential dangers. One danger is because primary representation of the BDA is limited to a single officer; this combined with the frequent transfers of government officers could undermine continuity and commitment to objectives.
Other lessons and policy issues
The project demonstrates that a public-private partnership can be developed and implemented successfully between partners with seemingly different goals, if the roles and responsibilities are clearly demarcated. Such a partnership can optimize the strengths of both partners to the advantage of the facility/service being provided. A commercially driven motive and the public development interests of a city do not necessarily need to be in conflict, but can be synergized. If the partnership can be structured in such a way that all partners are also stakeholders in the development objectives, either as a result of organizational goals or by linking development activities to commercial activities, then a public service or activity can be effectively provided through a public-private partnership.
Given the potential of public-private partnerships, there is a need to amend Regulatory Acts such as the Municipal Authority Act and the Development Authority Act to encourage their formation. The involvement of the users in the design and implementation is not only desirable, but could be made mandatory so that public interest continues to be prioritized when government agencies partner with private companies or undertake commercial activities.
Although equity issues have not been addressed in this project, policy and regulatory frameworks should guard against widespread adoption of such public-private partnerships in a manner that diverts financial and other resources towards commercial or elitist activities, at the cost of benefits or programmes for the poor.