There is hope for the long-dead Shahdara Lake Rejuvenation Project. The 10-acre wetland, which once flourished in this part of a crowded East Delhi, could come back to life again.Its first phase, which involved setting up of a ‘natural’ sewage treatment plant with help from NEERI experts, is complete and functional. Vast beds of red and yellow Canna Variegated flowers, Umbrella Palm, Pampas Grass and Water Lily – which absorb sewage as nutrients – can be seen at the site.At least 30 lakh litre of wastewater, collected from 5000 to 6000 households in Shahdara, is being treated through a method called ‘phytorid wetlands’ daily.

The water is drained into the dry lake bed for revival.As per East MCD officers, the second phase of the project – comprising excavation of the lake bed, garbage removal and cementing or tiling for water retention – has been approved under the central government’s AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation). At least Rs15 crore may be granted for this purpose to EDMC. The project was stalled for over four years because of lack of funds with East MCD. Initiatives that will follow the initial phases include greening around the lake area, creation of boating facilities, constructing a banquet hall, amphitheatre, tennis court, etc. Gaurav Jaiswal, an officer with the Projects Division of Shahdara (North) Zone, EDMC, said, “We are happy this is progressing well. We have got in-principle approval for second phase of the project under AMRUT Mission. We have already asked NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) to design the lake and its landscaping.” “We are awaiting the money sanctioned for the project. It could be ready by 2020, though we are not confirming any timeline,” he stated.

Ajay Ojha, a co-partner in Technogreen Environmental Solutions (TES), Pune, which set up the ‘natural STP’, said, “This (the Shahdara Lake setup) is the biggest phytorid wetland system in India so far. It works much better than conventional STPs, which have many costly mechanical and electrical components, malfunctions and require high maintenance.” “On the other hand, these plants – Canna Variegated, Umbrella Palm, Water Lily, etc. – laid on gravel beds and boulders with a system of 20 screening chambers and an Ultraviolet (UV) water purification system, clean dirty water very well. The end product turns out to be of recreational quality,” he explained.There are still many challenges before TES and EDMC in reviving the lake. The Public Works Department has a sewage drain opening up right into the Shahdara jheel, contaminating the clean STP-produced water. Public nuisance is a huge issue too. “Many steel components of the STP tanks have been cut and taken away by miscreants in the area. We lose Rs 50,000-60, 000 worth of pipes, pumps and lights every week,” said an officer at the site, Aditya Sharma. Help from the police is being taken, he added.

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