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Sewage treatment: Floating wetlands pilot project to be launched in Sheikhupura village

LAHORE: Punjab government is launching the country’s unique initiative — Floating Wetlands Project — for the wastewater treatment and its proper disposal, in funding collaboration with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef).

A pilot project is being started next month in Sheikhupura district using “floating wetlands” method to treat sewage accumulating in a village pond, that will be later expanded to the rural areas of other districts, including Lahore, Dawn has learnt.

“It is a unique project, to be launched soon in a village of Sheikhupura district, where we will use floating wetlands method that enables aquatic plants to grow in water that is characteristically too deep for them. The roots of such floating plants spread down into the water and make thick pilasters with loads of surface area,” Syed Zahid Aziz, Chief Executive Officer of Punjab Municipal Development Fund Company (PMDFC) explained while discussing the project with Dawn.

“Once the pilot activity proves successful, the PMFDC– a subsidiary of the Local Government & Community Development Department – will start work to launch the project formally in various other districts,” he added.

He said a similar project has already been completed in Faisalabad by the government with its own financial resources.

According to a proposal, currently, all the wastewater generated by this village (Mughal Pura, Laittan), in Sheikhupura district, is being discharged into an open pond without any treatment as no wastewater treatment facility exists there.

It says that an estimated 16,000 Cu-ft untreated domestic sewage, generated by 160 houses in Mughalpura, Laittan, is being disposed off into the pond on a daily basis. “The current site has been selected to achieve the objectives in a small village. The pond is located in the north of the village and all the wastewater is disposed through open drain system. There is one main source carrying all the sewage of to the pond. There are two other inlets with minor capacity which also drain sewage into the pond. One corner of the pond is also used as a solid waste dumping site. Ultimately, wastewater is discharged into the agricultural lands.

The quality of wastewater seems very poor and unsuitable for the production of crops. The approximate area of pond land is 48,416 sq-ft (8-kanal and 18 marlas) and land is owned by provincial government. The average depth of the pond is 4 feet approximately, and in rainy season, there is a 1 foot to 1.5 feet rise in the pond level,“ reads the proposal.

The proposal mentions that with the existing system and technical justification and due to non-existence of any wastewater treatment facility in the village, the pond is presently acting as a sewage carrier and all the seepage from it is nothing but sewage.

It says the sewage flow from the pond is posing a threat to the groundwater reservoir, deteriorating sanitary conditions in the area, besides posing a threat to the downstream users. The wastewater pond is also affecting the air quality and civic life in the village, the proposal says.

It explains that the floating wetlands treatment has been selected because of being an indigenous, sustainable, feasible and low-cost method, while it has no operational and maintenance costs, and requires no chemicals or electricity.

The project, according to the proposal, aims at revitalising wastewater generated by the whole village. It says this method will improve the quality of wastewater, which can be used for agriculture purpose without further treatment.

“At present, the entire village sewage is disposed into the pond without any treatment, posing threat to the public health, ecosystem and especially to the groundwater aquifer. This project is in total conformity with the sector objectives and will reduce environmental impacts of untreated sewage disposal, and strengthen institutional capacity of PMDFC to deliver improved services to the people of small villages. The most important thing is that this project is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-3, SDG-6 and SDG-13),” it maintains.

It claims that implementation of the project will help improve the environment and water quality, help meet the National Environmental Quality Standards (NEQS), and improve groundwater and air quality. It will also help create conducive environment for aquatic life, improve ecology and quality of civic life and provide a recreational site for the village residents. The proposal says that for revitalisation of pond, floating wetlands will be made by using indigenous plants, with no operational cost. The roots of these plants will grow into the pond water and improve the

quality of water. Moreover, meshing of these roots will strengthen the pad and make the surface stable.

The proposal says about 10,000 sqft wetland, which is almost equal to the 20 percent of the pond area, will be developed by using indigenous plants.

Before starting the work on wetland, it says, water samples from the pond’s inlet and outlet points will be obtained and used as a baseline data, and will be compared with subsequent results after every six months. This exercise will be repeated for two year, it adds.

Moreover, it says, groundwater samples will also be collected as a baseline data and compared with the results after two years.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2023

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