Construction of new sewage treatment plant is slow as usual
- By Amarjargal Munkhbat -
- Sep 22,2023
More than four years have already passed since the construction of the sewage treatment plant started in Ulaanbaatar. On February 28, 2019, then Prime Minister, U.Khurelsukh laid the foundation of the sewage treatment plant. At that time, the officials all said that “For the citizens of the capital city, this is a historical development.” It was also presented then that it would be put into operation in 35 months or about three years. However, a year has already passed since the deadline, but the construction still has not been completed. Annoyed citizens say, “Anything done by the government fails. It has become one of the unfinished works and unfulfilled promises, such as the central sewage treatment plant, the oil refinery, and Darkhan-Uul Province road.”
COSTING 262.7 MILLION USD
A new sewage treatment plant is being built on an area of 17.7 hectares in the 20th khoroo of Songinokhairkhan District. It is equivalent to 10 football fields. It is twice as big as the old one. The total cost of the project is 262.7 million USD, and it is being financed from the concessional loan provided by China to the government of Mongolia. At the current exchange rate, it means that Ulaanbaatar will have a new sewage treatment plant for more than 910 billion MNT. A total of 35 buildings will be built within the project. A joint consortium of China Tisiju Civil Engineering Group and Beijing Construction Engineering Group was selected as the general contractor. Several Mongolian and Chinese companies are working as subcontractors. Contractors have a contract to build buildings, install equipment, train engineers and technicians, or do all the necessary work and complete the work on a turnkey basis. In any case, the work continues without any hindrance in terms of funding.
PROJECT COMPLETION AT 44%
It has become almost a tradition for leaders of our government to familiarize themselves with the work process. If the project would have been completed by every time the Ministers and officials came, it would be finished already. Recently, Minister of Construction and Urban Development, Ts.Davaasuren visited the place and checked the situation. The people of “Ulaanbaatar city sewage plant construction project” told him that the work will be completed in 2024. The construction of the new facility is currently 78 percent complete. It is planned to reach 85 percent this year. The project is being implemented in stages: construction, equipment assembly, testing and adjustment. If these are considered as a package, the total performance is 44-percent complete. Basically, it means that the project has not even reached half completion. It is planned to finish construction and repair works next year. After that, for one year, the contractor will carry out tests and adjustments, as well as train engineers and technicians. In fact, the current situation shows that the plant will start working from 2025 at full capacity.
As for the equipment, it is said that some of it is specially manufactured in China for the new plant. The work was started more than a year ago, and the first round of equipment is being received and assembled. But some of them are still in the process of being delivered. About 600 people are currently working on the site. More than 50 percent of them are Chinese workers and the rest are Mongolians.
COMMISSION TIME DELAYED BY 18 MONTHS
Officials explained its delay in commission with the pandemic. Specifically, they said that foreign engineers and technicians could no longer come to Mongolia due to the border closure.
It was also clarified that it was difficult to withdraw the equipment due to transportation and logistics difficulties. Due to this, the commissioning period was delayed by 18 months. The Ministry of Construction and Urban Development has reported that the new sewage plant will be put into operation next year. Engineer of the project D.Ankhbat clarified whether such a possibility would be created. He said, “It is planned to complete the training of human resources together with the installation of equipment. Even though it is 18 months late, we are working faster to make up for this period because it is one of the projects that the government and citizens have high expectations for.”
D.Ankhbat emphasized that the facility will be ready for operation by October 2024, exactly one year later, if there is no delay in the transportation of the equipment manufactured in China. But the biggest problem is the harsh winter. Construction work cannot be done in winter. Basically, the construction work starts at the end of April and stops in October. Because of this, he explained that it takes a long time to complete the construction of the facility.
8-YEAR PRIOR FEASIBILITY STUDY USED
In July, due to five days of continuous rain in Ulaanbaatar city, the level of the Selbe and Dund rivers rose sharply and inundated. Due to the flood, the capital’s Central Sewage Treatment Plant was put into emergency mode. The facility can receive and treat 170,000 cubic meters of water per day. However, the amount of sewage received due to the flood reached 220,000 cubic meters. In other words, it exceeded its capacity by 50,000 cubic meters, and its operation was disrupted. This problem has occurred before. Commissioned in 1959, the capacity of the facility, which has been in continuous operation until now and has not undergone significant repairs and
maintenance, can no longer cope with the growth of the city’s population, especially the construction of many apartments being commissioned. That is why it is necessary to build a new sewage treatment plant.
In November 2015, eight years ago, the Prime Minister at that time, Ch.Saikhanbileg held his “Solution Time” meeting at the Central Sewage Treatment Plant. As a result, construction of a new treatment plant within three to five years and the solution of the smell and other problems arising from the sludge were discussed on the spot. At that time, the French company “Artelia Ville and Transport” prepared a feasibility study for a new treatment plant on the order of the mayor. However, the feasibility study was not used, and the construction was not started until 2019, when the foundation was barely laid. The new sewage plant is currently being built based on the feasibility study developed in 2015.
WILL WE RID OF STINKY ODOR?
Every citizen of the capital city knows that it needs a new sewage treatment plant. Because Ulaanbaatar stinks in winter and summer. Everyone in the city knows the smell of the sewage treatment plant. It means that the problem has gone far to such an extent. Therefore, the residents of the city will be interested in whether the problem will be solved by building a new treatment plant. According to the feasibility study and plan, the mentioned problem can be completely solved by building a new facility. In specific, it is planned to receive and clean wastewater, process the remaining sediment and sludge, extract biogas, and introduce technology for energy production. The extracted energy will be used for domestic needs of the
facility. If it can really be implemented, there is nothing like it needed in the city. Regarding sewage treatment, engineers and technicians of the current Central Sewage Treatment Plant can work. However, because new equip ment is being installed, the staff will be trained. Since sludge and sediment processing and energy production is a completely new technology for us,
it will take some time to prepare and train human resources. This is the most sophisticated technology of the facility.
They have planned to install a deodorization system in the new facility. In addition, because the primary cleaning facilities are all closed, the stench does not spread throughout the city during operation. Regarding the current facility, the cleaning equipment is in the open area rather than indoors. Also, the stench spreads throughout the city due to the open dumping of sludge and natural drying. So, if it is built and put into operation as planned, Ulaanbaatar will stop “stinking”. But we have at least one year until it is implemented and approved.
HOW LONG WILL THIS NEW PLANT OPERATE SUCCESSFULLY?
As mentioned earlier, the Central Sewage Treatment Plant is now 64 years old. According to the officials, it is too old, it can no longer meet the growing needs of the population, and the equipment is worn out. If the new treatment plant is put into operation soon, how many years will it be used for? As a result, it will be interesting to see how long the city’s population growth can be “sustained”. In any case, the equipment of the new facility can be used for 50 years. Its capacity will receive and clean 250,000 cubic meters of water per day. According to the calculation of population growth of the capital, there will be no problem in using treatment facilities with such a capacity until 2030. But it is not clear what will happen after that. In other words, no one knows how many years the new treatment plant will “endure” the city’s population growth. In any case, it seems that the government is focusing only on getting it into use first.