An urban water and sewerage system project in the Indian state of Karnataka is improving people’s health and making cities like Mangalore more livable.

By the numbers

1 million
people who received an improved potable
water supply
people who received wastewater management services and sanitation
people who received a municipal solid waste
management system

Source: Project Completion Report (2012)

Mangalore, Karnataka State - Ashwini, 29, lives in Mulakad on the outskirts of Mangalore, a coastal city in southwestern India, with her husband, a day-laborer, her 2-year-old daughter, and her mother-in-law. The family's new, low-cost toilet has dramatically changed their lives.

"The latrine has brought dignity and privacy to our lives."

- Ashwini, 29, resident of Mulakad

"The latrine has brought dignity and privacy to our lives," says Ashwini, whose family members no longer have to relieve themselves on the hillside behind the house.

The project has also delivered more clean water to the family's home. "We receive adequate water supply to meet the family needs. Overall, the quality of life has improved for my family, and children [throughout the community] fall ill less frequently."

Before 1999, Mulakad - like much of urban coastal Karnataka - suffered from severe water shortages and a lack of sewerage systems. Urban growth far exceeded water-supply capacity, holding back economic growth, and damaging the natural environment, and - most importantly - harming health and human welfare.

Urban growth and renewal

According to 2011 Census of India data, greater Mangalore had a population of 484,785. Across India, booming cities such as Mangalore are engines of economic growth, but as their populations rise, their water and sewerage systems come increasingly under strain.

Prioritizing 10 urban centers for investment, including Mangalore, the ADB-supported Karnataka Urban Development and Coastal Environmental Management Project has improved the living conditions of about 1.2 million people in Karwar, Ankola, Dandeli, Bhatkal, Sirsi, Kundapura, Mangalore, Puttur, Udupi, and Ullal by rebuilding and expanding the water supply, improving urban waste management, upgrading streets and bridges, better managing the coastal environment, and providing savings and credit support for poor families.

The project laid 2,000 km of water pipelines, and provided an additional 305.5 million liters of water per day to residents of these urban areas. Before the project, only 20% to 60% of people in the 10 cities had access to the municipal water supply. The duration of supply varied from 1 hour per day to even 1 hour per week. Thanks to the project, more than 90% of people in these cities are connected to the water supply system and receive, on average, 4 hrs per day of clean, drinkable water. The municipal solid waste management system benefited 800,000 people, and the wastewater component benefitted 440,000 people.

Mangalore, which has received the largest investment in the ADB project, now has 400 kilometers (km) of new sewerage lines, and 20 new sewage pumping stations. These pumping stations pump raw sewage into underground wet wells, and then to the sewage treatment plant to be treated. Meanwhile, state-of-the-art laboratories at all the sewage treatment plants closely monitor incoming sewage and its treatment to ensure safe reuse and disposal of the waste.

Residents of Mangalore have received over 3,600 new, low-cost toilets, built to ensure good sanitation even during the wet season. "The environs around the toilets have been improved with concrete gradients," says project community development officer Nelson. "And stormwater drains prevent water logging during the monsoon rains."

"The provision of low cost sanitation units has enabled beneficiaries from poor households, particularly women, to live with dignity and respect, and has improved the overall environment, health, and hygiene," says Hun Kim, Country Director of India Resident Mission of ADB.

"The project has overall contributed to improved living conditions of people in ten coastal towns of Karnataka by expanding the water supply, improving waste management, upgrading streets and bridges and coastal environment management," he added.

Investments like these have made Mangalore the eighth cleanest city in India, according to the Government of India's National Rating Exercise 2009-2010. Mangalore's water supply has improved and can be scaled up to provide round the clock water supply.

The Mangalore city corporation has signed an agreement with a local Special Economic Zone under an innovative PPP model, for selling the treated waste water for industrial purpose. This will help to conserve water as well as reduce the operations and maintenance liability (estimated at $4 million per year) for the city urban local body.

Cleaning Wastewater

In the catchment area surrounding Kavoor sewerage treatment plant - in Mangalore - Stephen Denvil Soanes, 23-year-old head of the local sewage treatment plan, says that 16 million liters of sewage per day is pumped from homes, industries, and businesses. The Kavoor Sewage Treatment Plant treats and purifies it, before releasing it safely into the nearby river.

"Besides Kavoor, there are four other [sewage treatment plants] ... They all serve Mangalore's sewage treatment needs, making it a more livable city."

- Stephen Denvil Soanes, head of Kavoor sewage treatment plant

According to Soanes, the plant has vastly reduced pollution levels by treating effluent that would otherwise find its way into public spaces. The foul smell of open drains has largely gone and far fewer people are suffering from filariasis - a tropical disease spread by blood-feeding mosquitoes and flies.

The treatment plant that Soanes oversees was built by the project, with ADB support. Since it was completed in 2009, it has been handed over to the Mangalore City Corporation, which now runs it through a private company.

The treatment plant serves 30% of Mangalore's population, says Soanes. "Besides Kavoor, there are four other [sewage treatment plants] in Panchanadi, Pilikula, New Mangalore Port Trust, and Surathkal. They all serve Mangalore's sewage treatment needs, making it a more livable city."