India to become one of the top water scarce countries in next ten years: COO, EA Water
Sarika Malhotra September 2, 2016
Hariharan Subramaniam, Chief Operating Officer of Everything About Water tells Sarika Malhotra of Business Today about the major challenges and opportunities in India's water sector.
India is the largest exploiter of ground water in the world. It is withdrawing 251 cubic km of water every year, which is more than the US and China put together. Amongst major countries, ground water levels in India are going down faster than anywhere else.
Q. What is the size and scope of water treatment market in India?
As much as 60 per cent industries surveyed feel that water scarcity is affecting their business, while 87 per cent industries feel that their business will be adversely affected due to water scarcity in the next 10 years. Regulatory pressures are likely to drive industries like textiles, leather tanneries, power plants and chemical industries to go for zero liquid discharge solutions. All power plants will likely to shift to sewage recycling to meet their water needs. Tamil Nadu and Gujarat are likely to become the biggest markets for water reuse. Maharashtra, Karnataka and Indo-Gangetic plains also likely to see major spurt in water reuse projects.
Sewage recycling is expected to grow significantly. Railways are likely to become major consumers of water reuse, which will save over 500 millions of liters per day (MLD) of water. Biological treatment technologies will become common and replace chemical technologies. Ultra filtration technology are also expected to grow significantly for tertiary recycling applications. The major consumption of recycled water would be for cooling towers, gardening and industrial process applications. Indirect potable reuse is expected to grow in India, as recycled water would be fed to surface and ground water sources.
The water sector also holds an opportunity to be a major employment-creator in the economy. A number of international consulting and engineering firms have set up design centres in India. Pune, Delhi and Bangalore are emerging as hubs for back-end engineering and operations. The availability of good manpower in these locations is contributing to this growth. With sizeable water treatment, pumping and distribution infrastructure being created under JNNURM and other government schemes - there will be a need for good operation and maintenance manpower. We project that the water sector should generate about 1 million new jobs in the next 5 years.
Q. What are the biggest areas of concern for India's water ecosystem?
Water quality is also worsening rapidly. Fluoride, iron, arsenic, nitrate and salinity are afflicting ground water in various parts of the country. With ground water aquifers depleting, new geological structures are coming into play leading to mineral contamination. Increasing pollution from agriculture and industrial activity is also a matter of concern. Newer contaminants like pesticides, pharmaceutical byproducts and chemicals are coming to the fore.
Urban water supply and sanitation is another major challenge, as a major chunk of our population is moving to cities. With old and unattended distribution networks, unaccounted for water (UFW) in most Indian cities is 45 to 50 percent. Out of the total water treated and supplied from the plant, only about half reaches the metered users. Water security for natural and man-made disasters is low. In a recent international study of 50 major cities across the world, Delhi and Mumbai came at the bottom of the pack at 49th and 50th positions.
Q. What will be the size and scope of the water reuse market in India?
The edge will be with companies that have more energy-efficient and differentiated solutions, and with a stronger Operations and Maintenance (O&M) capability. Business model innovation like BOO and performance-based billing is likely to come in. A lot of private equity and other investment are coming into the water sector. This might lead to some consolidation in the medium term. Growing at over 16 per cent per annum, the overall sector presents a good opportunity for investors.