Desalination projects linger one
Vishnu Mohan | 09 Dec 2006

Drinking water scarcity is a global phenomenon and India is no exception.  Perhaps, it will be no exaggeration to say that India could be high on the list where drinking water issue could become a major issue in the next two decades or so, if preventive measures are not taken in time.  In some places in Kutch in Gujarat and in many places in Rajasthan, people still have to walk miles to get a pot of drinking water on a day-to-day basis. 
Here I wish to dwell on issues, which can thwart the water desalination project, yet to come in its full form so far in any part of India.  The first project to have started in Tamil Nadu in Chennai, conceived in 2004, is just lingering on for one excuse or the other.
The recent news is that there are a few takers for desalination project work tender in Chennai.  The proposal was announced in 2004 to create a capacity of 100-million litres a day (MLD). Chennai Metro Water, the nodal agency for implementing the project, issued tender for selection of a firm to execute the preliminary work.  It fixed October 27, 2006 as the last date for submission of tenders.  Despite extending the deadline for submission of documents, the response was not satisfactory, sources said to a leading newspaper daily.  It seems Metro Water is likely to issue the tender notice again in a week or two. The prospective consultant will have to prepare a detailed project report for execution of the plant.
It also transpires that the present State government has sought the Centre's aid for implementing the above project.
Let us first try to understand what exactly is desalination project.
From a dictionary’s point of view, desalination relates to the removal of salt and saline content particularly from seawater. In more technical terms, desalination or desalinization is one of the many processes that take away the extra salt and other minerals from water to acquire fresh water. This can be put to the use for animal consumption, irrigation and even human consumption if most of the salt is eliminated.
A few questions that are relevant in this context are raised for seeking suitable remedies:
  • After having acknowledged the fact that our country is one among those where drinking water is a big issue for over 120 billion plus population, why is the Government (both the Centre and the State) are showing lukewarm response in getting started a project like desalination of water. 
  • Is it due to mastermind tactics of some of the private owned mineral water business houses who are only forseeing their business grow more and more in the days to come (  Every third person in a city today is buying mineral water for drinking purpose) but .are equally apprehensive about their business  prospects in case such desalination projects takes shape and therefore they are putting indirect pressure for the concerned agencies to go slow on this project ???
  • I personally fail to understand why is it a State like Tamil Nadu which is progressing so well, on all fronts, has to ask Centre for aid for getting started this project???
  • Brief facts & figures on similar projects, along with a few suggestions:
  • A French company, Veolia, had been roped in to set up the desalination plant to provide about 50 million litres of water a day for immediate requirements in a place called Mundra located in Gujarat. The company had earlier set up the world's largest desalination plant in Israel.  Perhaps, Gujarat is the only second State to have gone in for desalination project so far.
  • A company by name IDE Technologies Ltd., is supposed to be an internationally renowned one in this field.  This Company is recognised as a pioneer and leader in the delivery of sophisticated water solutions.  It specializes in R&D of saline water desalination processes, concentration and purification of industrial streams, wastewater treatment, heat pumps and ice/snow machines.
IDE Company Profile
- Central Government can pass a legistation to make it mandatory for every State, wherever there is availability of sea water, to compulsorily go in for "desalination of water" project. Bids can be invited either from global leaders (I am not sure whether any Indian firm, as of now, can attempt to do such a project with finessee).
- Tamil Nadu Govt. much show greater eagerness in getting started this project and to make it a big success in the near future.   
While concluding, let's all hope for the best to see a common person enjoying drinking water flowing out of  desalination plants in many parts of India, wherever it can be implemented, in the days to come.