Pierre-Yves Pouliquen, COO, Africa, Middle East and India, SUEZ - a key player in sustainable management of resources present in five continents - talks about the pressing need for water management in India.
What are the specific challenges that developing countries face with water treatment and management?
Emerging countries are facing multiple challenges such as quick growth of the cities, implying the need for increasing volumes of water in times when the resources are becoming scarce. Also, there are growing expectations of the middle-class citizens for better services (for example, 24/7 water supply) and, at the same time, water consumption has increased due to urbanisation. Also, protection of water tables and rivers from the pollution caused by untreated wastewater or insufficient norms is a growing concern. India has recently strengthened the existing norms about the reject from wastewater plants. These imply huge investment programmes, both on potable and wastewater, rehabilitating existing water networks to compensate losses coming from leakage. To ensure continuous transformation of the cities, the decisions need to be taken today, as it takes at least three years for the infrastructure and solutions to get ready. This sense of urgency must accelerate the decision-making process at all levels…politicians, administration, etc.
At the same time, citizens' awareness of the fact that water is a limited resource, and that delivering water and protecting resources have a cost is key. The impact on tariff is inevitable, and has started in many countries.
How crucial is the Indian market for SUEZ?
SUEZ believes that India's water sector will grow significantly, with steady participation from private operators, due to the combined effects of intense urbanisation, growing industrialisation, rising living standards among the population, increasing pressures on water availability and more stringent regulations on environmental protection and pollution control.
For over 30 years, SUEZ India has been working very closely with the municipalities to enable citizens get easy access to high quality drinking water. We are confident that with our experience we will be able to provide smarter and sustainable water solutions. While the company will continue to find newer and more sustainable solutions to manage water and wastewater management for municipalities, the focus has also been on the industry water segment. Clearly, industrial water must be treated and reused, and this should drive growth of demand for water treatments in the coming decade. In order to accelerate its growth in the industrial water treatment market, SUEZ has recently acquired Driplex, a local industrial water company, to reinforce our ambition in industrial water.
Solid waste management remains a challenge for local authorities. Globally, SUEZ supports municipalities, industries and healthcare professionals in the most complex waste management projects through a variety of services. In India, SUEZ would like to expand waste management operations by providing integrated waste management projects (IWMP), waste segregation and resource recovery, refuse derived fuel-based waste management solutions and energy from waste options using both thermal and digestion techniques.
There are several opportunities like large sewage recycling projects, potential solid waste projects across India, provided we are offered a viable business model; several unaccounted for water (UFW) and distribution improvement projects proposed across India, which are of interest to us. SUEZ India is committed to support the Government of India's initiatives on Smart City Solutions.
How is the India business faring?
From India, our business footprint has enlarged to SAARC countries where we are pursuing and winning contracts. All in all, evolution of our business has seen a sea change over the last three decades. In terms of revenue, the contribution from SUEZ India is around Euro 150 million to our group revenues of approximately Euro 15 billion. We have been growing our business in India around 10 to 15 per cent year-on-year. However, opportunities in India are enormous for the competencies an environmental services group like SUEZ offers, more so in light of the severe environmental and civic stress facing the population - both in large metros and other growing cities.
What kind of growth are you expecting from the Indian market?
India, with a billion-plus population and growing, will see a huge demand for cleaner water and increased wastewater treatment facilities. Municipal solid waste management is another segment that will see maximum growth in the next 10 years. The government is exploring ways to engage private companies to efficiently manage this challenge, and SUEZ India will follow the market.
What has been your India experience like?
India has offered ample opportunities to work and strengthen the government's initiative in water, which has strengthened the group's capability to innovate for emerging markets. For over 30 years, our group has shown firm commitment to participate in modernising India's water infrastructure, and we are proud of many firsts we introduced to the industry - advanced filtration and clarification processes, nitrification and ozonation technologies, sewage treatment technologies with generation of renewable energy, membrane bio-reactor technology, network and distribution expertise, service-level improvements, customer service, helium gas leak detection technology and the list goes on.
SUEZ India has designed and built around 255 water and sewage treatment plants across the country, and has been instrumental in bringing innovative technology and global expertise to India supporting local authorities and enabling citizens get easy access to high quality drinking water. Water treated by SUEZ India-run plants result in the distribution of five billion litres of drinking water every day to over 44 million people.
Overcoming environmental challenges requires collective mobilisation: it needs governments, local authorities, operators and people to work together to manage resources more efficiently (water, raw materials from waste, energy, etc.).
Are you customising solutions for the Indian market?
SUEZ's global expertise coupled with its local experience has enabled it to offer innovative solutions to a number of municipal corporations and water boards in India. In the truest sense, Suez in India is global, yet strongly local.
One of the tailor-made solutions that we had developed is SMART Management for Water Utilities - an advanced technique that uses scientific approach to manage water distribution system in mega cities using GIS/GPS technology on a real-time basis. This technique enhances the overall delivery efficiency of the distribution system, saves a lot of energy (in terms of response time, cost and labour) and improves customer satisfaction. The system involves simple integration of all input, delivery data and consumer data on a GIS platform. The same is integrated with the Utility SCADA system for managing day-to-day operations, like new service connections, leak detection and repair, and water tanker supply management.
Helium Leak Detection for Water Utilities is another technique that has been developed and customised by SUEZ India as per the unique requirements of the water network in India - it can detect invisible leaks especially in networks with low working pressure, intermittent supply, and network made of non-metallic pipes. This technique has helped utilities in reducing physical losses and NRW in cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Pimpri-Chinchwad (Pune).
Comprehensive operation and maintenance service suite for treatment infrastructure, using state-of-the-art asset management tools and process control techniques to help the customers meet their statutory obligations.
Where is the biggest opportunity in India?
Wastewater and solid waste management, in particular, are emerging as key thrust areas for most of the cities as pollution control norms are becoming stringent enough to compel companies and municipalities to adopt eco-friendly technologies.
Will you be working on existing STPs in India or building new STPs?
We are looking at all possibilities of extending our expertise and experience in STP - designing and developing new plants, operation, management as well as refurbishment of existing STPs. Recently, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) awarded SUEZ India the contract to design and build the 37-MLD Colaba Wastewater Treatment facility. This three-year construction contract will be followed by 15 years of operation and management, amounting to a total of Euro 65 million revenue for the company. We are exploring more business opportunities in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, as well as in neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh which are facing similar issues.