Manipur has successfully launched its sewage treatment plant at State capital Imphal, making it the first city in the Northeast to have the facility. The primary objective of implementing the sewage treatment plant is to control pollution in Nambul river which flows into Loktak, the largest freshwater lake in the Northeast. Under the Imphal Sewerage Project Phase 1, sewerage pipeline connection has been provided to 12,000 households and other establishments in nine out of targeted 11 municipal wards. With a project cost of Rs 345 crore, Phase 1 has a generating capacity of 27 million litres per day and is designed to cover core areas of Imphal through its primary and secondary lines. Untreated sewage has been a very disturbing issue across India, with an estimated 60% of the untreated sewage finding its way into rivers and water bodies, causing large-scale pollution and resultant human diseases besides severe damage to the ecology of the water-bodies. Indeed, untreated sewage has been the leading polluter of water sources in the country, causing a host of diseases including diarrhoea which kills 3,50,000 children annually. Agricultural contamination and overall environmental degradation are the other major concerns directly attributable to untreated sewage.

The rest of the north-eastern States need to take a leaf out of the Manipur initiative and replicate the scientific intervention to save the natural environment in general and the life-giving rivers and water-bodies in particular. Given the biodiversity hotspot that the region is, it is all the more imperative that all the State governments act fast to ensure efficient sewage treatment. In Assam, we all have been witness to the ravages caused to the pristine Deepor Beel, a Ramsar Site wetland, by untreated municipal wastes – both solid and liquid – over the years.  It is most regrettable that the city of Guwahati, the gateway to the Northeast and touted as a future hub of Southeast Asia, does not have a scientific garbage disposal system including sewage treatment till date. With population pressure increasing not just in Guwahati but across the entire urban landscape, the need is to evolve holistic long-term solutions with an eye on the future. Unless we put in place a matching urban infrastructure, our city and towns will crumble under the weight of a burgeoning civic pressure. All along, the convenient practice with the GMC till date has been to dump the city’s waste without any segregation at source – let alone any scientific treatment of the waste. As things stand today, the entire arrangement from collection of garbage to transportation to disposal is being carried out in an utterly unprofessional manner, with piles of uncollected garbage lying by the roadside and in the drains. The house-to-house collection, too, has been irregular while segregation of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste at source – so essential for scientific disposal – is never done.