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Panel Discussion on Operators Skills Development for Wastewater Treatment

IFAT India 2015-India’s Leading Trade Fair for Water, Sewage, Refuse and Recycling; October 14, 2015; Bombay Exhibition Centre, Hall 5, Mumbai


A panel discussion on the theme of “Operators Skills Development for Wastewater Treatment” was organized by GIZ and DWA on 14th October 2015 at IFAT India 2015. The panel discussion was an interactive technical session with speakers from selected specialist organisations from Europe and India that are actively involved in wastewater sector and training of operators. The panel was moderated by senior representatives from Infrastructure Leasing and Financing Services Limited (IL&FS Ltd.) and the German Association for Water, Wastewater and Waste (DWA). This session brought forward the knowledge from India and Germany on operators training and future scope of skills development of operators in India.

Event proceedings:

Welcome address

Mr. Thomas Kauter-Eby, Senior Advisor, GIZ gave the introductory note to the event and welcomed the panellists, moderaotrs and the audience. Mr. Kauter-Eby highlighted the importance of the common effluent treatment plants in India and role of operators in their efficient functioning. He also said a few words about the Sustainable and Environment Friendly Industrial Production project, under which, GIZ, in cooperation with premier national and international public and private sector agencies, is initiating actions for introducing a system of training courses for the operators of the industrial wastewater treatment plants.

Mr. Kauter-Eby also stated that promotion of skills development of operators of the ETPs/CETPs from industries and industrial estates will be a prerequisite in enhancing the performance waste water treatment sector as a whole.’

                             Welcome address by Mr. Thomas Kauter-Eby, Senior Advisor, GIZ


The panel discussion started with self-introduction of panellists.

In the first part of the session, Mr. Shidhaye presented the experiences from the past work of IL&FS accomplished in cooperation with GIZ, DWA, and CII-TWI on skill development of operators of industrial waste water treatment plants. He brought forward the challenges faced by the operators due to their educational background, poor working conditions as well as lack of avenues for their career growth.  He gave certain solutions which can improvise the situation. They were- i)  inclusion of ETP operators in Green Jobs Skills Council, ii) NSQF based cascading training courses  with  AICTE as a regulator and NSDC as a facilitator, and iii) consideration of Certified operators as a consent condition for CETPs. He mentioned that these solutions are under development and open for further discussion.

After this Indian perspective; Mr. Knitschky’s presented German perspective on operators’ skills development for wastewater treatment. He summarised the system of training of the operators and their employment process which is present in Germany. He also mentioned that the operators in Germany have  a continuous learning environment. He highlighted the importance of ‘Skill Competitions’ which keeps the operators motivated. Further, he presented the innovative mobile App for wastewater technology.

With this background, Mr. Knitschky initiated the discussion with following questions:

What is the status of waste water treatment operator training in India?Experience from pilot work conducted for skill development of operators in waste water treatment in India?

Presentation by Mr. Santosh Shidhaye, IAAD
Presentation by Mr. Roland Knitschky, DWA

Indian experiences being shared by Mr. Shidhaye, SVP, IL&FS

German experiences being presented by Mr. Knitschky, DWA

Views of Panelists

Mr. Lau, CEO, VESBE indicated that the status of training of operators in India is very poor and there is no standardised or formalised training structure available in India. In contrast, Germany has standardised well established training for operators in waste water treatment business. The question is how to transfer the concept from Germany to India as it cannot be done person to person and thus proper institutionalisation is required. He also added that approximately 80 % of CETP operators in India are not skilled.


Mr. Block, General Manager, Remondis Aqua International GmbH mentioned that the issue of training of operators of waste water treatment or their skill development in India should be visualised as responsibility for education and need. He said that investment on training should be done in absence of which huge investment in infrastructure will become vulnerable for failure. The waste water treatment plants are responsible for discharging treated water which will have minimum impact to receiving environment. The operation of such treatment plants should be carried out by skilled operators only. (e.g., In Germany waste water treatment plants are operated by operators with at least 5 years handling experience). Also, the concept of maintenance should be practised to avoid breakdown of plant. In India education background of the operators is also a challenge. Any technology adopted in India would need a set of skills associated with it for best results.


Mr. Aggarwal, Head- Training and Skills, Reserwater Innovation Foundation shared his experience in dealing with waste water treatment. He stated that sometimes even after investment of huge money, a properly designed plant fails to meet required results due to unskilled operators running the highly technology assisted treatment plant, which finally results in total loss of investment. He added that his organisation is going to launch Skill development centre in November this year to address the need for development of skilled manpower through with certification from National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).

He further elaborated that although the knowledge of treatment process is available with the operators working in waste water industry but knowledge to select the proper treatment as per available waste water quality needs upgradation of skills.  Hence, the planned skill development programme will be initiated considering engineering aspect and will be expanded to different levels of waste water treatment aspects.


Mr. Sripathi C., Senior Counsellor, CII shared his experience with operators of waste water treatment industry. He indicated that there is vast range of experienced manpower available with no exact basic education qualification in this sector. Over a period of time, the operators in the waste water treatment plant have developed thumb rules based on their experience and they follow the same irrespective of variations in incoming effluent. The owners of such waste water treatment plants do not understand the technical and operational problems. They can focus only the economic aspect of running the plant. Additionally, they stress on running the plant with minimum investments.

He pointed that another issue with skill development amongst the operator is language. Most of the operators are not comfortable with English and need skill development trainings in their local languages. Thus, it is needed to develop the curriculum in different languages to actualise the impact of skill development in process of waste water treatment plant operation. Thirdly, he mentioned that there are challenges in terms of financial remuneration to these operators and most of the time they are not properly paid for the services. There is also an issue of knowledge in terms their standard role description which is most of time is not available with these operators.


Mr. V.K Ghadge, Senior Environmental Engineer, Gujarat Pollution Control Board presented Gujarat experience in this field. He mentioned that the operators of individual industries in textile sector at Ahmedabad and Surat are being trained as the state of Gujarat is looking towards Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD). He added that the minimum education qualification for the operators in waste water treatment industry must by at least graduation and not senior secondary school or lower. He mentioned that the equipment operation and the knowledge of electronics and controls which are integral part of new technologies. These topics need to be included in the training programmes.

He specified certain important initiatives taken at Gujarat. Firstly, the industries association have been directed to employ the trained operators. Also, the industries have been suggested that they should have provision for continuous knowledge upgradation of these operators. Secondly, GPCB has initiated a knowledge exchange platform in cooperation of GIZ and UBA.


Questions and discussions:

Q1. Mr. R. L. Birla, Energy Conservation Services asked “Why can’t SPCBs direct to operate the waste water treatment plant by certified operators only as it was done for boiler in India?”

A1. Mr Ghadge replied that GPCB has already forwarded a request to central government for amendment in act for inclusion of operation of waste water treatment plant by certified operators, but the government process will take its own time.  Mr. Knitschly added that even in Germany it took 20 years to bring this as law, but they achieved to develop the interim plan (developing certification) in parallel apart from government initiatives. Mr. Block mentioned that in India the reason for failure of big projects is the procedure of tendering which does not consider the weightage to skilled manpower.

Mr. Lau mentioned that modernised/certified trainings are available however the question is how to transfer these in reality for India. We can’t keep on waiting for government initiatives only. From business perspective, the treatment plant will earn profit only if they perform and for getting required performance there is need of investment in trainings of operators, this will earn long term profits for the owner of the plants. Mr. Sripathi also mentioned that we need to change the perception of certification as well. Training certification should not be just the ‘Certificate of Participation’. Standardisation of certification is required across different states and countries.

Q2. Capt. Shivaji Mahadkar, Managing Trustee of Takshashila Education Trust of Mumbai asked what are the career prospects for the certified operators in India?

A2. The panel replied that in present time there is not much growth available for the operators in waste water treatment industry, but the certification will definitely build motivation for career advancement for operators. Also, the future of skilled operators is not limited as there will be always new projects with advanced technology in market. The operators could be motivated for advanced trainings throughout their professional tenure.

Q3. Mr. Atul Kulkarni from audience asked what are the possibilities for equalisation of education qualification with respective certification for criteria of operator selection by waste water treatment plant?

A3. The panel answered that the proposal for equalisation is under consideration with AICTE to bring equivalent education qualification with respect to certifications.

Q4. Audience asked that how many women are working in waste water treatment industry in Germany out of the total workforce in the industry.

A4. Mr. Block answered that about 40% of total manpower in industry is of women, while not all of them working in actual plant operation, but are in supporting staff role.


The panel concluded with the remarks that there is good market for skilled operators in India. We should start early for better results. Involvement of industry and academia in the process will strengthen the process. Work based training pattern as in Germany will increase the profits and enhance the efficiency of plants. Operation and maintenance should be considered as an integral part of in the process for supplying technology. This will integrate the importance of advancement of manpower along with advancement of the machinery.  Creating a mass movement through compulsory certification, compensation and incentives to operators would be a very apt way to address the present challenges in India.