Arun Lakhani, Chairman and Managing Director of Vishvaraj Environment Private  Ltd. recently sat with NewsX in an exclusive interview under its special segment called NewsX India A-List to talk about India’s first and the largest PPP on water reuse and recycling which was completed in record time during the pandemic and has recently been felicitated with the FICCI Water Award 2020. Vishvaraj Pvt Ltd. has a fresher outlook towards the overall management of the water cycle with a newly integrated PPP model into function.

Talking about the ethos of the company and what does it stands for, Mr. Lakhani said, ”We stand for the water Sustainability, We stand for the reuse and recycling of water. We believe that unless the fourth P that stands for ‘People’ into the PPP Model, particularly in the water sector which is one of the social sectors rather than a corporate one, is not included, we will not get adequate success. We believe that the reuse and recycling of water is a must for us and only by being aware of the same, we can become ‘Sujjlaam, Suflaam’ which our country has always been.”

Expressing his gratitude for winning the FICCI Water Award 2020, Mr. Arun Lakhani talked about the project that led the company to bag an honour like this, he stated, ”We won the first prize in the FICCI National Competition. this is a project which was 100% privately funded project of 200 Billion Litre per day sewage treatment. so there is a plan of secondary treatment of 200 MLD out of which we have added a tertiary treatment and we are selling 119  MLD of treated water to nearby Thermal Power Stations. now, what good it does to the society is that the freshwater that is being used by the thermal power stations, the same amount of 190 MLD  is now available for the city for drinking purposes. this takes care of the upcoming generation and about 35 years of population growth of the city of Nagpur.  so with this type of complete positive cycle, you treat the sewage and supply it to a non-portable use be it industrial or others.  We take out the freshwater which we were using earlier for treatment. this cycle basically brought us into the competition.”

Talking about the procedure that the model entails, Mr. Lakhani underlined, ” Every city that we supply water to, Nagpur for example;  We supply 70 crores Litre of Water every day and 80% of this water comes back as Sewage. So when around 500-600 crore Litres of Water comes back every day in the form of Sewage, if you don’t treat it, then it goes on to contaminate the wells, lakes, streams, and rivers in the city. so when we treat the water, it not only saves the freshwater sources but can also use this treated water in the industry. What we do is that we treat the sewage, and the treated water is pumped across the pipeline to the thermal power stations and they are stored in the reservoirs of freshwater which eventually gets transferred to the city for drinking purpose. Its a total of 20 crore litres of water per day that is additionally available in the city of Nagpur.”

When asked about the reason of starting Nagpur Rescue Project, Mr. Lakhani said, “Actually this started with the contamination of water in Nagpur. there were Public Interest Litigations around the matter and the court took cognisance of the matter and further laid out a ruling ordering the Municipal Corporations to start treating the sewage which further led to the announcement of PPP project with a public biding. At that time when we entered the project, it was a secondary treatment but we took it further and added the tertiary treatment as well seeking some help from Mahagenco, which is quite proactive and is a generation company of Maharashtra for power with their own power plant that was implemented a decade earlier.  So they were familiar with the concept and when we approached them, they said they’d be happy to treat more sewage water and help the environment.”

When asked about his plans of expanding the venture to different cities across India, Mr. Lakhani’s response was affirmative. ”Yes, definitely! We have been called in so many forums in different cities. Actually, we are present across India, nearly in 20 towns in different sectors such as water distribution, water treatment and sewage treatment. We are also on the list of top 50 companies in the world as per population and are serving around 80 lakh people in the country presently. We intend to go to more cities with more investment,” said Arun.

He further talked about the reason for water pollution in India. He added, ”In our country, management of water has been missing. we have always had an adequate amount of water and you’ll be surprised to know that out of 100 smart cities, 82 cities have enough water, with 130 LPD per person as per the international standards data. the management is missing as the water leakages are there and the sewage that goes untreated.  We have 60 thousand million litres of sewage  that is being generated in the country out of which 36,000 is released without any treatment.”

Speaking about the government policies, he underlined, ”This government has fortunately been very proactive. the clean Gange Programme is one such example, where a hybrid annuity PPP model was suggested. then there is also ‘Jal Jeevan mission’ through which they are trying to reach every household with tao water. there is also one programme that the government will be funding, necessarily with the sewage treatment.”

On a concluding note, Mr Lakhani talked about the dire need for a policy that sheds light on newly integrated models. ”We need a policy that clearly defines the PPP rules for the entrepreneurs as well as the government that give revenue separately. Like the one given in the Namami Ganga programme, where the central government has assured the payment which makes people interested into the sector,” said Arun.

When being asked about the vision of the company, Mr. Arun Lakhani said, ”Now with the complete understanding of the issues as well as the solutions, we are looking to expand in many more cities and towns where we would be able to invest.  We believe in the skills of the game and plan to do more PPP models and hopefully in the next couple of years, we would be in around 1–15 cities.”