—Koichi Matsui, CMD, UEM India
Toshiba recently hiked its equity stake in UEM India to a substantial 80 per cent. Tell us about the potential that you see in the water and wastewater management sector in India.
The water and wastewater treatment market in India is a $4-billion industry and is growing at 10-12% every year. Toshiba’s brand name, technologies and footprint, coupled with UEM’s expertise in EPC business will result in a definite positive synergy that will enable UEM to reach out to more customers for securing profitable orders. The Indian market is highly competitive and under the Toshiba umbrella, UEM is ready to face this stiff competition with better technology, quality, delivery and customer satisfaction.
UEM has been present in India since 1984. How has the company grown over the years?
UEMs history spans over four decades. From a humble beginning in 1973 as a utility management company in Florida, USA, UEM has grown into a highly respected, multifaceted organization. After starting out in 1973, UEM grew to become one of the largest O&M companies in the state of Florida by 1975. In 1977, UEM received its first turnkey project in Jamaica and by 1979 the organization strengthened its base in Trinidad & Tobago.
UEM’s India operations started in 1983-84, and in the past three decades UEM has been making significant contribution in the area of both municipal and industrial wastewater management with its cutting edge technology and seamless delivery. Today, UEM’s name can be associated with several significant projects executed for prestigious clients both from the municipal and industrial sectors namely DJB, RIL, UPJN, BWSSB, ONGC, IOCL, NTPC, HCCBPL, Jindal Steel etc. Recently, UEM has won an Rs.220 crore contract for a wastewater treatment and recycling plant in Oman, a Rs.132-crore EPC contract from JUIDCO amongst others.
What has been the thrust area for UEM India? How do the two broad customers – industry and utility (municipality) – compare for UEM India?
In India, UEM is primarily focusing on three major verticals—municipal, industrial and operation & maintenance services.
In the municipal segment UEM is focused on the wastewater treatment segment (STPs/WWTPs) using various modern technologies like activated sludge process (ASP), sequential batch reactor (SBR), membrane bio reactor (MBR) etc. In addition there is also focus on large sewerage works using trenchless technologies. Further, UEM is also keen to undertake specific projects in the water treatment space. UEM has virtually handled all kinds of effluent that gets generated from various types of industries like brewery, distillery, textile, pharmaceutical, tannery, steel, dairy, refinery, petrochemical, petroleum, automobile, paper, palm oil, hotel, power, sugar, hospitals etc. UEM has access to advanced technologies like UF and HEROTM which are employed to treat challenging effluents and zero liquid discharge with high performance and low lifecycle cost.
I believe that the above delineation of the spectrum of services we provide to our customers, both municipal as well as industrial, clearly describes the opportunities that urbanization and industrialization has presented to the entire water and wastewater management industry and to UEM.
Wastewater management in Indian cities is extremely challenging and reports suggest that in the best case, scientific waste management facilities can be set up in only some sections of the city, and never the entire city. What is your view?
Indeed today cities have outgrown the municipal areas due to rapid urbanization, growth of the existing population and increased immigration towards the towns and cities resulting in the creation of slums, all of which have contributed in the rise to unsanitary conditions within the towns and cities. Dumping of waste directly into lakes and rivers is a result of such unplanned growth. In such conditions it takes tremendous efforts on the part of the Central and state government, the LUB, private players and the public to tackle the problem. Better coverage of the city by expansion of the sewerage network and upgrade of existing facilities can be an answer to the problem to some extent.
Our project in Sahibganj (Jharkhand) under the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) Programme is an example of such an effort where we are involved in the construction and commissioning of two sewage treatment plants of 5 mld and 7 mld capacities based on SBR technology as well laying of a sewerage network of 55 km that includes seven pumping stations. I firmly believe that we can offer technically robust, cost-effective and time-bound solutions to our clients and partner in the development of a ‘New-Age’ India.
What comes to your mind as the most challenging and interesting project for UEM India, in recent years?
UEM has executed challenging projects across the globe as well as at home in India. Our project in Oman for ‘Majis Industrial Services’ is one such example where we are deploying high level purifying treatment technology and facilities utilizing an ultra-filtration membrane, reverse osmosis membrane and ion-exchange resin filtration system.
Apart from India, in which other countries is UEM actively present in?
UEM has a global presence; we have offices in Trinidad & Tobago and in Florida USA. UEM’s reach is in countries in the North and South American Continents, South East Asia and the Middle East and North African Region, specifically Oman.
India is urbanizing fast but public services in the area of water and wastewater are not keeping pace. What challenges do you foresee?
In spite of funding provided by external agencies and the Centre it has been observed that the decision making in various municipalities is slow and thereby leading to inadvertent delays in project award and finalization. Coupled with clearances and approval delays several large projects in leading municipalities have been delayed for several years thereby causing problems in various cities
India, for its population and size, has very few sewage treatment plants. How do you see the challenges as well as the potential?
There is tremendous potential in water and wastewater sector in India. There are several large STPs in India which are employing modern treatment technologies and thus operating in line the CPCB norms. Another important development is the effort being made by the Government towards the rejuvenation & revitalization of the Ganges river along the banks of the cities it passes through, this has led to the advent of agencies like NGRBA and NMCG under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation emphasizing the considerable effort and focused approach being taken by the Central and state governments, local urban bodies and private sector players in water and wastewater management. Similarly, there are various other river conservation projects pan India that will lead to several STPs and sewerage schemes in the near future.
How do you see the scope for wastewater recycling in India, especially with the gradual entry of private sector players as well as involvement of multilateral funding agencies?
The scope for wastewater recycling in India is tremendous especially when we have stressed underground sources of water and polluted over ground sources, namely rivers and lakes. The treated wastewater often referred to as reclaimed water can be used to irrigate parks, golf courses, and other landscaping. Understanding and implementing water recycling requires a paradigm shift from thinking of “used” water as wastewater, to thinking of it as a valuable resource. With the entry of private sectors players more and more advanced technologies can be offered to end users that works best keeping in mind Indian conditions.
Multilateral funding agencies play an instrumental role in providing financial assistance in cases when no other approach—like payments by the beneficiaries, government, public private partnerships—would be feasible. However, it should always be kept in mind that tapping external sources usually means financing for a limited period of time and according to the rules of an external organization. If the issue of long term financial viability has not been taken into consideration, many projects may collapse once the external finances are not viable.
Given that water and wastewater management will be a key priority for India, how do you see the road ahead for UEM India?
The biggest challenge that engulfs rural and urban India is poor sanitation conditions. A vast segment of the population has paid the price of poor sanitation with their health, and the water resource of the nation is being polluted by untreated sewage from the cities. This has emphasized on the need of water and wastewater management.
Efforts in this direction are initiatives like the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ and the ‘National Mission for Clean Ganga’ etc. where joint efforts are made by the Central and state governments, urban local bodies and, water and wastewater management organizations belonging to the private sector to mitigate the problems that affects the ecosystem and millions of Indians.
UEM is an important part of this journey, in fact we have been recently awarded two projects namely:
- 14-mld sewage treatment plant on SBR Technology funded by World Bank under NMCG scheme at Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) for UPJN.
- 2-mld sewage treatment plant on SBR Technology, and sewerage works, funded by World Bank under NMCG at Sahibganj (Jharkhand) for JUIDCO
We see ourselves as forerunners in the area ready to support government initiatives taken in this direction.