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									  INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
International Journal of Civil Engineering and OF CIVIL ENGINEERING
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME
                      AND TECHNOLOGY (IJCIET)
ISSN 0976 – 6308 (Print)
ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online)
Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), pp. 45-61
Journal Impact Factor (2011): 1.2000 (Calculated by GISI)          ©IAEME


                            R Radhakrishanan1, A Praveen2
        Research scholar, Department of Civil Engineering, Karpagam University,
                               Coimbatore - 641 021 India
      Faculty of Civil Engineering, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Technology, Kottayam ,
                                 Kerala, 686 501, India

Implementation of the sustainability concepts in water use and management have
received considerable attention all over the world. These efforts have led to the initiation
of well-coordinated attempts to ensure reliable wastewater management systems across
wide range of industrial or commercial operations. The choice of wastewater treatment
technology in a particular organizational setting is often influenced by large number of
factors. In the case of rapidly expanding developing state like Kerala, the decision on the
choice of wastewater treatment unit in an organization is often based on the acceptability
of the pollution control agencies than through any rigorous evaluation for the process
sustainability. The research initiatives undertaken elsewhere have emphasized the need
for evaluation of three broad aspects of sustainability - economic, environment and social
- in the planning and design of wastewater treatment units. This paper examines the
degree of acceptability of the sustainability concepts in the wastewater treatment
operations for Indian scenario. The assessment is made based on the information
collected on the wastewater treatment operations carried out at a few selected cases. The
research outputs bring to light the areas that need strengthening of organizational
capability in taking environmentally, economically and socially conscious decision-
making relating to wastewater treatment operations.

Key words: Sustainability, Perceptions, Waste water treatment, Energy efficiency aerobic
/ anaerobic treatment.

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

         Water has been the focus of all sustainable development initiatives due to the
universal importance it hold to support all types of life forms on earth. The water policies
proposed have often tried to achieve unrealistic social and environmental targets and
hence the methods to achieve sustainability are often seen with lot of skeptism (Iglesias
and Buono, 2009). The earlier definition of sustainable development, proposed by the
Brundland Commission, emphasized both the inter-generational and developmental
problems along with the identification of environmental and social linkages (United
Nations General Assembly, 1987). Later, World Bank evolved an approach incorporating
economic, social and environmental aspects to evaluate the sustainability aspect in the
development process (Munasinghe, 1993). The global level initiatives in this direction
were started with the framework proposed through world conservation strategy in the
year 1987. Later in the year 1992, at the Rio Earth Summit, the need for country level
governmental intervention was highlighted. In continuation to this, World Strategy for
Sustainable Development appealed to all the governments to evolve their own approaches
to plan and implement steps for sustainable development in 2002.
         The efficiency and effectiveness of these interventions need to be assessed
methodologically to understand the impact and utility of sustainability initiatives. Though
different type of frameworks have been established to evaluate the sustainability
initiatives, the indicator approach is often adopted for sustainability assessment of
wastewater treatment units (Spangenberg, et al, 2002; Iglesias and Buono, 2009). The
techniques adopted to assess the sustainability of wastewater treatment need to consider
large number of factors like the type of community, demographic pattern, geography,
culture and the population served. Based on the aforementioned factors various methods
like, life cycle cost assessment (LCA) method, exergy analysis and economic evaluation
method are proposed for sustainability evaluation (Nilsson and Bergstrom, 1995;
Hellstorm, 1997; Horvath and Hendrickson, 1998; Lundin et al, 1999; Hunkeler and
Biswas, 2000; Balkema et al, 2002; Lundin and Morrison, 2002; Rebitzer, 2002; Rebitzer
et al, 2003; Muga and Mihelic, 2008). In addition to these methods, computer model
based evaluation of the system incorporating all the associated costs and the benefits
obtained through recovery/reuse is also proposed to provide better perception on the
sustainability (Woods et al, 1999, Hunag and Xia, 2001). Most of the above approaches
have tried to focus on either quantitative or qualitative description of environmental,
economical and social aspects with relatively less attention paid to the public opinion in
the decision-making. The objective of all sustainable development approaches was to
redefine the decision making process with incorporation of social, economic and
environmental aspects capable of generating public confidence in the development
         The wastewater treatment operations implemented all over the world are mostly
technology driven treatment processes capable of generating clean water for ensuring
ecological sustainability (Gujer, 1996). The life cycle of water in a water supply system
usually begin with the withdrawal of water from any surface or subsurface source. It is
then made to pass through a set of water treatment operations before entering the
distribution network. From the distribution system, the treated water is used for various
activities and is finally regenerated as wastewater. This wastewater is treated to remove
the contaminants and is either disposed or reused as per the water quality norms (Metcalf

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

and Eddy, 2003; Lundin and Morrison, 2002). Contrary to the expectations, the
wastewater treatment units installed to ensure better environmental health and hygiene,
tend to cause small disturbance to the existing local hydrological and ecological balance.
The treated wastewater containing low concentration of dissolved impurities could lead
to objectionable level of pollutant mass concentration in the receiving water bodies when
the volume of disposed wastewater become very high (Muga and Mihelic, 2008). Further,
more stringent water quality standards often culminated in more sophisticated treatment
technologies resulting in higher operational energy, accumulation of more sludge and
finally higher cost of treatment (DETR, 1998). And, setting up of huge centrally managed
facilities to treat the wastewater also resulted in systems having high level of embodied
energy (Muga and Mihelic, 2008). Thus, an effective research intervention to understand
the decisions taken with the objective of setting up sustainable wastewater treatment units
to reduce the ecological disturbance besides ensuring cost effectiveness have become a
necessity. Various researchers have emphasized the need for the local level information
to ensure reliability in the evaluation of any specific projects for sustainable development
(Fraser et al, 2006). And thus, the existing information gap regarding the key elements
needed to establish economic, environmental and social sustainability of wastewater
treatment facilities need to be addressed effectively.
         In the developing regions of the world, the major problem demanding urgent
attention is the rapid population growth resulting in the scarcity of water and the large-
scale contamination of rivers and other water bodies. Considering the successful
performance of wastewater treatment technologies in the advanced economies, large
numbers of such solutions or products are directly transferred from the developed nations
to the developing countries. But most of them have failed to deliver either due to the high
operational and maintenance cost or poor compatibility with the prevailing local
situations (van Leir et. al., 1998). Majority of developing nations are not successful in
evolving effective policies on wastewater treatment practices due to higher priority
attributed towards other issues being faced by them. And due to these reasons, it is
believed that these countries most often select simple and cost-effective appropriate
solutions over more mechanized treatment technologies (Sperling, 1996). This calls for
increased need for appropriate and energy efficient wastewater treatment solutions
compatible to the local conditions (Sperling, 1996; Helmer and Hespanbol, 1997; Varis
and Somlyody, 1997). Thus in the context of rising concern about the strategies being
followed all over the world for the effective management of the environment it has
become inevitable to install more efficient and effective wastewater treatment solutions
capable of ensuring environmental, economic and social sustainability in these regions
(Zakkour et al, 2002, Muga and Mihelic, 2008).
         In a country like India, which experiences rapid expansion of business operations,
ample opportunities for easy transfer of mechanized and highly sophisticated
environmental treatment technologies exist (Sato et al, 2007). Thus it is necessary to
understand the prevailing perception in the organizations about the sustainability aspect
in wastewater treatment process and strategies being adopted by them for their long-term
operations management. This paper tries to bring out the prevailing opinion at
organizational level (both within and across) on the sustainability aspect of wastewater
treatment in India based on the detailed analysis of a few cases chosen for the study.
Some of the key issues included in the detailed introspection are identification of key

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

drivers of action for sustainability, approach each organization preferred to adopt and the
methods or processes that they have followed to attain sustainability in their operations.
In addition, the significance of a set of factors proposed by De Vries and Petersen (2009)
like the merit of the technology chosen, resource and energy consumption pattern,
regulatory demands, public intervention etc is also considered by the researchers for the
evaluation of chosen cases.

        Evaluation of the policies and practices adopted by the organizations towards the
management of environmental technologies is the approach adopted by the authors for
obtaining valid information on their decision making process. The major challenge in
these types of exercises is to frame the questions for their evaluation and proposing a fool
proof criteria for making a effective judgment, specifically relating to the operational
aspects of the wastewater treatment units. Most of the assessment progrmmes, undertaken
in the past, are found to have serious limitations like absence of a generic tool for the
evaluation process, lack of flexibility in the effective implementation of the evaluation
methods and the need for inter-disciplinary and participatory based programmes
(Rothmans, 2009). Also, a coherent approach could be chosen as general guidelines that
take into account of identification of worldviews, defining the scenarios and also
evaluation of risks and opportunities (De Vries and Peterson, 2009). Thus the study
would aim to bring out the interrelationships of three attributes economic, environmental
and social factors with respect to time, process and tradeoff by generating the qualitative
aspects involved in them.
        Large numbers of techniques have been used by various researchers to understand
and evaluate the sustainability aspect in the wastewater treatment operations (UNCSD,
1996 ; OECD, 1998 ; Singh et al, 2009). The study presented in this paper explains the
prevailing viewpoints in the organization towards the selection and management of
wastewater treatment facilities. The opinion expressed by the earlier researchers have
emphasized the need for geographical uniformity, data availability and consensus in the
interpretation on sustainability across different target groups or experts for drawing
unbiased inferences about sustainability (Bell and Morse, 2004; Mitchell, 1996;
Spangenberg, 2002; Fraser et al, 2006). Thus six different cases are chosen that have
similar exposure conditions in wastewater treatment operations, like access to natural
resources, demographic distribution and statutory controls (details given in Table 1). The
state of Kerala had unique characteristics like high human development index, better
access to educational and heath care facilities and people with high awareness level on
pollution (KSPB, 2009).

   International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
   (Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

   Table 1 Descriptions on the cases chosen for the study

    Type of
                  Type of
 Organization               Year of installation and treatment            Specific remarks on
  (with case                             technique                             treatment
  Health care              • Installed in the year 2000                 Spends 1 percent of the
institution (Org           • Uses Attached aerobic. Treatment.          capital investment as
        1)                 • Sludge used as farmyard manure.            energy charges. .
                   Diary   • Started operation in 2002
                   waste   • Uses activated Sludge Process
processing unit
                   water     (ASP).
     (Org 2)
                 treatment • Sludge used as farmyard manure.
                           • Started operation in the year 2003
      Milk                 • Uses upflow anaerobic sludge               Absence of data to
processing unit              blanket (UASB) reactor combined            understand           the
     (Org 3)                 with aerobic filter.                       operational details.
                           • Sludge used as farmyard manure.
                   Diary   • Started operation in the year 2004.
                   waste   • Both aerobic and anaerobic
processing unit
                   water     components in use.
     (Org 4)
                 treatment • Sludge used as farmyard manure.
                  Tannery • Started operation in the year 1998          Spends 1.5 to 2 percent
 Tannery unit
                  effluent • Uses anaerobic reactor.                    of the capital investment
     (Org 5)
                 treatment • Sludge collected by private agents.        as energy charges.
                                                                        Provision in the Budget
                                                                        for        environmental
                             •   The industry started operations
                                                                        Initiated          several
                                 during early 1982.
  Newpaper        Pulp                                                  methods for pollution
                             •   Aerobic lagoons for the treatment
manufactur-ing    waste                                                 reduction      like    (i)
   (Org 6)        water                                                 complete discoloration
                             •   Uses large drying beds for sludge      of paper pulp effluent.
                                 and later used as landfill             (ii)    Substituted    90
                                                                        percent of chlorine in
                                                                        bleaching process.

           The operational phase of a wastewater treatment unit is found to cause highest
   impact on the environment than its construction or implementation phase (Emmerson et
   al, 1995). Hence, the long-term impact of wastewater treatment units can be reduced only
   when the equipment and machinery chosen for them is less energy intensive and
   operationally efficient. The investigations have focussed on environmental, economic and
   societal factors relating to the design and operation of wastewater treatment units as they
   are considered as the indicators for the assessment of sustainability (Muga and Mihelic,
   2008). And hence, the data collection programme, tailored based on these aspects,

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

consists of interviews/discussions with the key decision makers in the organizations and
other technical personnel connected with the management of the wastewater unit. A
framework for this exercise was prepared that incorporated all the information required
for the evaluation for organizational perception towards sustainability (Figure 1 and
Table 2). The prejudices and biased opinions in the discussions during the data collection
were eliminated by making the exercise highly informal and unstructured.

     Figure 1 Framework for the data collection process

                   Policies            Programmes

                                   (i) Design,                                    plan
                  Business         maintenance &
 C                                 monitoring
 E                                 (ii) Awareness                               Pollution
                                   programmes & public                           control
 O                Human            relations management.
                  Resource         (iii) Employee training
                                   and capability

Table 2 The data requirement and the source description

Parameter     for Description           of
                                              Technical data collection
assessment        parameter

                   The basic design
                                              The source document is the design reports and
                   philosophy for the
                                              the minutes of the meetings related to the of key
Design concept     treatment       process
                                              decisions taken related to waste water treatment
                   employed      in    the

                                              Discussions with the engineers / managers
                   To       assess     the
                                              /technicians /operators would give the required
                   commitment of the
                                              information on the operations as well as the
Technology         organization towards
                                              interventions initiated in the organizations in the
management         effective management
                                              periodic manner. Also, the discussions are
                   of     the    treatment
                                              directed to understand the organizational
                                              viewpoint on sustainability.

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

                    To       assess     the    The details of activities undertaken by the
                    sensitivity          of    organization on the modification of waste
                    organization to various    treatment process, routine maintenance schedule
                    environmental aspects      etc would give a comprehensive idea on the
                    of the operations.         environmental responsiveness.

                                               Discussions with local civic representatives
                  To evaluate the extend
                                               about the organization and collecting past
                  of public acceptability
                                               information on any incidence about public
Evaluation and of the environmental
                                               agitation against the poor environmental
public disclosure technologies
                                               management by the organization would be able
                  implemented in the
                                               give required data to assess the extend of public
                                               confidence of organizational operation.


         Detailed analysis on the perceptions about the wastewater treatment facilities are
undertaken based on the opinion received from the discussions held with the plant
owners/ managers. Involvement in the design and technology selection, energy demand
in the treatment units, capability building or training of manpower and existing
mechanisms for ensuring public confidence are the factors considered as very vital in the
interview/discussion sessions. The primary approach in the analysis was to explore and
interpret the reported paradigm in the environmental sustainability perceptions like the
preferences for more affordable and appropriate technology in the developing countries
against more reliable, efficient and better sludge management facilities exiting in
developed nations (Sperling, 1996). The infrastructural development in India has been
skewed with a few regions experiencing rapid economic progress necessitating better
facilitates in wastewater management (Sato et al, 2006). Also, the significant portion of
the wastewater generated in these countries is from the individual establishments and
hence to opt for highly sophisticated technological solutions cannot be an ideal solution
due to high financial commitment. In addition, planning, design and implementation of
wastewater treatment technologies too is filled with high level of ambiguity, which will
have to be eliminated for ensuring the sustainability of the treatment units. Thus, with
majority of developing countries undergoing rapid economic growth, it is necessary to
understand their attitude and requirements through effective research interventions with
the objective of creating a strategic framework in wastewater management to support
their long-term development (Roberts, 2006).
         The observations made from data collection process shows the presence of three
specific stake holders in the process of technology selection and implementation of
wastewater treatment facilities. The organization owning the treatment facility,
consultants or the agencies involved in providing the wastewater treatment solution and

 International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
 (Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

 the government regulatory body established for the pollution control are the three
 independent groups influencing the decision making process (Figure 2). The
 organizations requiring wastewater treatment facility often expresses their requirement
 for a solution that satisfies the twin objectives of meeting pollution control norms and
 ensuring public confidence on environmental safety. Such an approach seldom results in
 the cost effective or energy efficient technologies. Further, as the in-house capability for
 the planning and design of wastewater treatment facility among majority of organizations
 is very low, most of them rely on externally hired consultant or technology solution
 provider to decide on the final choice. These situations forces the technology provider or
 the consultant to work very closely with the regulatory bodies and to promote the
 treatment solutions that are conventional and often not able to meet the changing need of
 both the industry and the region. An attempt is made here to identify the key strengths
 existing in the organizations and what intervention would help them to enhance their
 capability. The organizational capabilities presented in the Table 3 classify the ability of
 each organization in this domain into three general groups: low, medium and high based
 on the organizational attitude towards wastewater treatment operations.

                   Figure 2 Role players in the technology selection process


                  Consultant /
                  Technology                           Regula
                   Solution                             tory
                   Provider                             Body

Table 3 Existing organizational capabilities in wastewater treatment operations

                                  Energy        Ensuring
              Strength in                                                         Meeting
                                 efficiency    operational    Energy cost
   Case       technology                                                         regulatory
                                     in       efficiency on   awareness
 reference    evaluation                                                       requirements.
                                 operation      expansion
              L     M     H      L M H        L M H           L    M    H      L    M     H
   Org 1
   Org 2
   Org 3
   Org 4

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

 Org 5
 Org 6
Note : L- Low ; M - Medium ; H - High

         The organizations having in-house capability for design, evaluation and
implementation of wastewater treatment operations are placed in the high capability
group. These organizations have the adequate technical competence for continued
monitoring of their wastewater treatment process and proposing the right intervention for
eliminating the deficiencies identified and implementing technological upgradations.
Further, they consider the environmental interventions an inevitable component to ensure
sustainability of the business operations itself. The medium competence organizations
have access to appropriate manpower and resources for identifying the issues related to
the wastewater treatment operations but don't pay much needed attention for their
effective functioning. Thus these organizations are aware of the issues and problems but
express their inability for taking the right decision in connection with the repair or
improvement of their treatment unit. On the other hand, the organizational capability is
considered very low when they don't have any system to understand the current operation
of wastewater treatment unit or don't give adequate importance to the proper maintenance
of the treatment system. These organizations consider the role of the treatment unit as a
regulatory requirement rather than a unit for effective environmental management. Also,
it is considered by this class of establishments that the environmental management is an
additional overhead and any investment or expenditure towards the better management of
these systems would deteriorate their financial strength and is less convinced on the long-
term gains they would enjoy in their business operations. The broad classification is
made to assess the degree of organizational sensitivity to the environmental concern
along with their business priorities. It is understood that unless the organization gives
adequate importance to integrate the environmental care in their business operations the
overall effectiveness on the wastewater treatment efficiency cannot be attained. This is
evident in the case of a public sector enterprise (Org 6) but the other organizations
haven’t realized the need for such a view point as they didn’t perceive any immediate
gain from paying adequate attention for environmental planning.
         In addition, analysis was also undertaken to compare the business attitude of the
chosen cases and the importance each one of them have attached for the proper
functioning of their effluent treatment unit. The details presented in the Table 4 reflect
the organizational perception towards the effective management of wastewater treatment
facility. All the organizations pay maximum attention to ensure smooth business
operations and customer satisfaction. The regular upgradation in the process technology,
benchmarking the business process are some of the key initiatives that most of the
organizations undertake to maintain their business performance. But it is surprising that
such commitment in the environmental management initiatives is seldom observed in the
chosen organizations. Majority of them consider this as an additional overhead to their
expenditure rather than their social responsibility. Though they are meticulous to operate
the plant with the help of technicians, they are totally unaware of the inherent advantages
of improving the existing practices through various environmental and resource recovery
exercises. The high operational expenditure incurred by them due to the dependence on

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

the inefficient process is hardly realized by them. Also, is the high investment made for
the environmental management activities, which during the later years have resulted in
higher operational cost is not subject to any deeper introspection. Unlike, the privately
managed organizations, the investment support given for public sector enterprises by the
government, have helped them to undertake a few important process replacements and
improvements. Still, the wastewater treatment operations in the public sector
organizations are far away from a unified plan for achieving sustainability. Thus, the
dependance on the external consultants for the selection of the treatment technology has
resulted in the poor organization strength to address various issues related to their own
waste management. The minor modifications and expansions undertaken in most of the
cases considered in the study had reflected the incomplete organizational learning on
environmental management initiatives. The cases chosen for the analysis have helped to
understand how organizations in Indian scenario incorporate the factors influencing of
sustainability in the wastewater treatment system design. And these perceptions related to
the economic, environmental and societal factors.

Table 4 Comparison of business interests and environmental attention across

                                    Capability in
  Case       Organizational          wastewater        Attitude towards operations of
reference      Strength                facility             the treatment facility.
                                   management. .
                                 Poor in house
                                 strength for        Believes installation of necessary
            Enjoys high level
                                 design,             equipment should be able to ensure
            of reputation.
                                 installation and    environmental management.
  Org 1                          management.
            People have high
                                                     Very meticulous in running the
            confidence level
                                 Operations          plant but poor in its effective
            in the service.
                                 undertaken by the   management.
                                                     Expects mere running of plant
                                 Designs for
  Org 2                                              would result in better effluent.
                                 different units are
            Committed in                             Lacks awareness on monitoring and
                                 though decided by
            maintaining the                          performance evaluation.
  Org 3                          the same team of
            facility to meet                         Focuses on operation with very low
            the desired                              attention for monitoring the
            market demand.                           treatment efficiency of the plant.
                                 engineers lacks
  Org 4
                                 training on
                                                     Modification and augmentation
                                                     undertaken in unplanned manner
  Org 5     Highly conscious     Rely on the         Meticulously operate the treatment

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

            about the        opinion from the          plant rather than ensuring the
            processing       pollution control         efficiency in treatment.
            technology and   authorities.
            undertakes       Unaware of
            facility         operational
            upgradation.     efficiency or
            Owns modernized
                             competence in
            production                                 Monitoring on the environmental
                             planning and
            systems                                    technologies is carried out.
  Org 6     Constantly                                 Understands the need for effective
            improves towards                           monitoring and initiatives for
            meeting the ISO                            sustainability.
                             systems. .


        The long-term financial implications of judicious investments in the planning,
design and implementation of environmental systems is not well understood by the key
decision making personals in the organizations. The implementation of wastewater
treatment facility is often treated as a "regulatory requirement" and hence they hardly
undertake a thorough assessment of the operational efficiency of the chosen process and
its effectiveness in meeting the broad environmental quality objectives. This takes away
the motivation for adopting cost effective, environmentally benign and energy efficient
wastewater treatment solutions. In spite of the well-structured business processes in the
selected organizations, long term gains from adopting a sustainable wastewater treatment
system is not considered as very significant. This attitudinal factor can be easily
understood from decision taken at three independent milk processing units under a single
administrative apex body (Org2, 3, & 4). All the three milk-processing units have
adopted similar operations and hence the characteristic of wastewater generated at these
three places is identical even if the volume of wastewater could vary based on the
quantity of the milk processed at these units. Still, a consistent method for wastewater
treatment couldn’t be evolved, which otherwise would have certainly resulted in lowering
the treatment expenditure in their long term. The results reported earlier have established
that the diary wastewater treatment can be handled very efficiently and considerable
potential and government level support for generation of bioenegy from the wastewater
exist (MNRE, n.d). These organizations have failed to consider these aspects in a
comprehensive manner for the decision evaluation process and this have led to
inconsistent solutions across the milk processing units considered in the study. Due to
the limitations being experienced for the availability of adequate land for installation and
erection of equipment or related infrastructure, most of the emerging establishments
prefers sophisticated wastewater treatment technologies as done by their counterparts in
the advanced and industrial economies. This approach often led to high cost of operations
and culminated in the irregular wastewater treatment plant operation causing serious
harm to environment.

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME


         The environmental impacts from wastewater treatment facility are grouped into
two broad classes: direct impact and the indirect impact. The direct impact emerges from
the effluent disposed after the treatment and the indirect environmental impacts are
assessed based on the impacts of materials used in the construction or installation of the
facility or high energy requirement for their operation. A typical activated sludge plant is
estimated to emit 1400 tonne of carbon di oxide into the atmosphere and 50 tonnes of
carbon-di-oxide for its maintenance considering a life span of 15 years (Emmerson et al,
1995). Though various option for ensuring the environmental sustainability and reduction
of the combined effect of both direct and indirect impacts like use of cost-effective
technologies like natural wetland system is available, the industrial owners are not
willing to exercise their confidence in these methods. Studies undertaken earlier have
also reported that the success of these approaches were limited to some specific cases
(Shutes, 2001). Most of the organizations considered in this study needed solutions that
required less space for installation and high rate of treatment besides the reliability in its
working (Table 5). Majority of them had potentiality for installation of anaerobic
digestion based technologies, which was considered as most appropriate in Indian
condition considering the energy recovery potential (Sato et al, 2007, MNRE, n.d.).
Adoption of energy efficient construction, increased use of recycled materials, using
equipment that have higher energy rating, better configuration of the plant and using right
combination of anaerobic or aerobic technologies are some of the ways that these
organizations could have tried to bring in both economic and environmental gains. Inspite
of generating large volume of organic rich wastewater, they didn't consider any of the
aforementioned approaches even though the promotional supports by the government for
energy recovery initiatives are available (MNRE, n.d.). All of them relied on aerated
treatment solutions, which resulted in both financial as well as environmental stress. In
addition, most of the organizations work under the belief that water is for all and an
interest to protect the water resource was assumed to wrest in common than their own
initiative. Even though isolated efforts have been observed to minimize the resource
consumption, like use for garden irrigation, more concrete interventions are necessary in
the form of viable technology proposals for long-term environmental sustainability of
wastewater treatment units.

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

Table 5 Perceptions on sustainability

Sustainability    Influencing              Observed organizational perceptions.
   factor         parameters
                                   •    Low emphasis on clean technology and
                 Clean process          inconsistency in design.
                 and energy        •    Poor learning on technology and less concerned in
                 efficient              energy efficiency
                 operations.       •    Often prefers conventional systems accepted by
                                        pollution control agency.
                                   •    Poor mechanism of quality assurance and periodic
                 Quality of             monitoring undertaken only in large organization.
                 water before      •    Common belief is : effective treatment of
                 disposal.              wastewater can be assured even by running the
                                   •    No significant modification is undertaken for the
                                        facility after its installation.
                 maintenance       •    The modernization of the treatment system is not
                 of the facility        given any priority even when the production
                                        facility is expanded.
                 Environmental •        Considers technicians or other support persons are
                 awareness and          enough to manage the wastewater treatment.
                 manpower      •        Need for manpower training in wastewater
                 training               treatment is not considered very relevant.
                               •        Poor evaluation on life cycle costs before the
                 Equipment              selection process.
                 selection.    •        In capable to evaluate the impact of the opinion
                                        given by external consultants on critical issues.
  Economic                         •    Unaware of the significance on the energy cost in
                 Energy cost
                                        the treatment options.
                                   •    Poor awareness on the use of renewable energy.
                 Technology        •    Mostly favors proven and convention solutions
                 compatibility.         with less problems in compatibility
                                   •    The environmental information related o the
                 disclosure of
                                        organizations are not released to public.
                 Proactive         •    The approach is often reactive and the issues are
    Social       interventions          attended only when reported.
                 involvement       •    Low public involvement and considers this aspect
                 in technology          as unnecessary in decision-making.


International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

        The perceptions on social sustainability among the organizations considered in the
study is reported based on the importance they have demonstrated in accepting the public
viewpoint either in the selection of technologies or in the public disclosure of information
related to the effectiveness of their environmental management system. The social
dimension necessary for ensuring sustainability of wastewater treatment units could be
attained only through effective participation from the public in the form of open
discussions and consultations (Iglesias and Buono, 2009). Further, the objectives
included in the Agenda 21 also emphasized the need for strengthening the participation of
public at various stages of decision making if the goal of sustainable development need to
be achieved (Spangenberg, 2002). It is observed that the prevailing practices in the
organizations don't give adequate importance for any public disclosure of information
regarding their wastewater management or pollution control activities (Table 5). The
organizations believe that the excessive association with the neighborhood society could
create issues that disrupt the smooth run of the enterprise. Thus, they often try to adopt a
defensive approach under the presumption that more generous attitude towards society
could lead to more harm than good to them, as society at large is regarded as an agent
who always tries to explore options to create obstacles for their smooth functioning. This
attitude is obvious that they have given significant attention to organize large number of
general confidence building measures among the neighborhood community. These are
mostly related to the general awareness creation on the issues that don’t have direct
bearing on wastewater management like cataract testing programmes, HIV awareness
programmes etc. The prime objective of these programmes is to create goodwill about the
organization among the neighborhood community rather than establishing coherence in
environmental decision-making. Further, the environmental awareness level of the public
is found to be high considering the high level of safe sanitation practices among the
population around the industries chosen. Further, the organizations often preferred
reactive interventions like managing a public unrest following a environmental mishap
from the side of organizations. And in such situations the extended litigation process
often disturbs both the social life as well as the industrial performance creating only
heavy losses to the parties involved. The study have helped to expose the absence of
appropriate techno-managerial support in the planning of wastewater treatment units for
the organizations in this region. Thus availability of a framework for wastewater
treatment technology evaluation for organizations could eliminate the inconsistency in
the environmental decision-making.

        The paper has exposed the information gaps prevailing at the organizational level
on the sustainability of wastewater treatment especially in a developing country scenario.
The observations made in this study clearly highlight the need for government level
intervention for improving organizational competence to design a sustainable wastewater
treatment and disposal operations. The research work have identified that the most
influencing factor in the selection of the technology for a wastewater treatment facility in
Kerala is the opinion of the concerned regulatory official. Further, it is also observed that
the business competence existing in the organizations are often not reflected in the
decision making process related to the selection and implementation of a sustainable

International Journal of Civil Engineering and Technology (IJCIET), ISSN 0976 – 6308
(Print), ISSN 0976 – 6316(Online) Volume 3, Issue 1, January- June (2012), © IAEME

wastewater treatment technology. Thus treating the environmental related decisions
totally separate from organizational business objectives have resulted in the dependence
on conventional technologies that are energy intensive with higher operational overhead
expenses. Thus identification of the local perception about the global sustainability
frameworks and the intervention from local bodies of governance to mitigate the gaps in
the sustainability perceptions could help the organizations achieve better environmental
performance of their operations.


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