Treatment of water and wastewater is necessary to meet the demand for water resources. It is not only essential for municipal and agricultural purposes but also for industrial processes. Wastewater treatment is becoming a priority in many countries and regions across the globe. The Southeast Asian water and wastewater treatment market is considered to be at a growing stage, with countries in the region at different development stages.

The scale of water and wastewater-related problems is vast and affects human health, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems, and even climate change. These problems require adoption of water treatment methods to overcome the issues related to wastewater treatment. Southeast Asia Infrastructure takes a look at some of the initiatives undertaken by countries.

Initiatives undertaken

Cambodia

Cambodia is experiencing rapid economic development. The consequent increase in waste and wastewater generation is becoming a major concern for Cambodian authorities and its development partners. To solve the problems related to wastewater treatment, the country is setting up new treatment plants with advanced technologies.

Cambodia has started construction on the Choeung Ek wastewater treatment plant in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.The plant will be constructed on 3 hectares of land in Prek Ta Kong I village with more than USD20 million in aid from Japan.The project consists of building a twin-engine pumping station with a total capacity of 420 cubic metres per hour. It will also consist of around 2 km of sewer pipes to connect to the station.

The Government of Cambodia is also planning to build a second, smaller waste treatment facility in 2025. The Asian Development Bank has signed a USD332.05 million financing package with the Ministry of Economy and Finance to help Cambodia recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This includes USD30 million for the Greater Mekong Sub-region health security project, USD180 million for the Liveable Cities Investment Project, USD82.05 million for the Road Network Improvement Project (Phase 2), and USD40 million for the inclusive financial sector development programme. The Liveable Cities Investment Project will help provide better wastewater and solid waste management services to more than 140,000 residents in Bavet, Kampot and Poipet cities. The money will also help the cities upgrade urban storm water and drainage systems, and reduce flooding.

Indonesia

Indonesia is becoming increasingly urban, resulting in various challenges. With a population of around 270 million, domestic wastewater is one of the major contributors to wastewater generated from human activities. Up to 90 per cent of clean water consumption is discharged as wastewater in Indonesia.

Domestic wastewater is usually divided into two categories – black water and grey water. Black water is the discharge from toilets that contains high organic, nitrogen and phosphorus content. Grey water is all the other wastewater except the toilet, including from sinks, showers and laundry. Only 1 per cent of the households in Indonesia are connected to a centralised or communal sewerage system that treats both black water and grey water. Indonesia is making efforts to address the wastewater challenge by strengthening the capacities of local governments to design and manage citywide services.

The country is coming up with the first wastewater treatment plant in eastern Indonesia, which is expected to commence operations in Makassar in 2024. It is a pilot project worth $75 million that is expected to benefit around 70,000 residents of the area.

Singapore

Singapore earlier depended on imports supplied from Johor and Malaysia for its water supply. Over the decades, it worked to strengthen its water services. Singapore built a robust, diversified and sustainable water supply from four water sources known as the Four National Taps. These four sources include water from local catchment, imported water, high-grade reclaimed water known as NEWater, and desalinated water. The NEWater process recycles treated used water into ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water. There are currently five NEWater plants operational in Singapore. It uses microfiltration/ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet disinfection technologies. Other countries like India are are also adopting the Singapore NEWater process to use highly treated wastewater to augment raw water supply in the country.

To boost self-sufficiency, the Government of Singapore has developed an advanced system for treating sewage involving a network of tunnels and high-tech plants. At present, recycled wastewater can meet 40 per cent of Singapore’s water demand. This is expected to rise to 55 per cent by 2060. Singapore has developed the high-tech Changi water reclamation plant on the city’s eastern coast. This plant can treat up to 900 million litres of wastewater per day.

Singapore is expanding its recycling system. It is planning to invest around USD7.4 billion in upgrading its water treatment infrastructure. It also plans to add an additional underground tunnel and a major water reclamation plant to serve the western half of the island. The plant is expected to be completed by 2025.

Vietnam

Vietnam’s rapid growth and industrialisation have had a negative impact on the environment and natural assets of the country. Demand for water continues to increase in the country, while water productivity is lowat about 12 per cent of global benchmarks indicated by a World Bank report on water. Currently, the water supply in Vietnam meets only about 70 per cent of demand, with a relatively high water loss rate of around 30 per cent.

The country has a few centralised wastewater treatment plants, and about three-quarters of its industrial wastewater is discharged into the environment without proper treatment. The Soc Son waste-to-energy project located in the Nam Son waste treatment complex in Hanoi, the biggest project in Vietnam, started operating in August 2021. The project consists of a wastewater treatment plant that is designed to treat 1,740 tonnes of wastewater per day. It also has the capacity to handle 4,000 tonnes of solid waste. The project entailed an investment of USD303 million.

Rapid industrialisation throughout Vietnam has been polluting the country’s water supply at an increasing rate, reducing the availability of potable water. Vietnam has significant potential for large-scale water treatment facilities. One such project, the Vinh Long city urban development and enhanced climate resilience project focuses on the development of wastewater collection and treatment, drainage, flood control systems, etc. The project entails an investment of USD202.2 million.

Ho Chi Minh City, which has a population of more than 10 million people, is one of the first cities in Vietnam to pass a resolution to fully transform the city into a smart city by 2025. A major focus area will be to provide solutions for water supply and drainage, wastewater management and storm water monitoring. This will help keep away from any water scarcity problems that may arise in the city.

Myanmar

Rapid economic growth accompanied by urbanisation and industrialisation has led to significant challenges in Myanmar, especially in terms of waste management and treatment. Due to the absence of proper waste management systems in the country by townships and city development committees, uncollected waste is often dumped on the streets and in waterbodies, polluting the air, soil, and inland and marine waterbodies. In addition to environmental pollution, insufficient waste management also impacts public health, social systems and other economic activities.

To address these issues, including wastewater treatment and management, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, with the assistance of the International Environmental Technology Centre of the United Nations Environment Programme and the IGES Centre collaborating with UNEP on Environmental Technologies launched the National Waste Management Strategy and Master Plan (2018-2030) in Myanmar.

The plan addresses all forms of waste, including solid waste, liquid waste/wastewater and gaseous emissions. There are initiatives being supported by the international community for wastewater management in Myanmar, especially in areas related to wastewater, sanitation and drainage. The industrial wastewater sector in the country is introducing centralised systems of wastewater treatment plants. These plants are being planned mainly in the industrial zone in the cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Monywa.

The current wastewater treatment project in the Thilawa special economic zone offers treatment capacity of 4,800 cubic metres per day. It is developed in collaboration by Myanmar and Japan. The Mingaladon Industrial Park runs the centralised wastewater treatment plant to treat the collective wastewater capacity of 5,000 cubic meters per day. Additionally, the central industrial treatment system has successfully been constructed in the Mandalay industry zone with 65 per cent financial support from the Responsible Business Fund Myanmar and 35 per cent aid from local small and medium enterprises. The establishment of the centralised wastewater treatment plant will solve the environmental degradation problem around the Dokhtawady river and this plant would help treat over 60,000 gallons of wastewater produced from 23 leather processing factories.

In Sum

Many countries face severe water shortage in the Southeast Asian region.The increasing demand for clean water, growing water contamination, stringent government regulations on water treatment and increasing industrial waste discharge in waterbodies are the major factors that have necessitated initiatives to expand wastewater treatment facilities in these countries.