Bangalore Environment Trust Newsletter, November
Sat, 03/03/2007 - 08:25 — admin
Bangalore Sewage; Water Supply of Bangalore - Mr Ram Murthy
Sat, 03/03/2007 - 08:25 — admin
For many years now, the sewage disposal system of Bangalore
city had broken down; the pipes which were supposed to carry
the sewage to the treatment plant were either damaged or
blocked or were too small for the job. The treatment plants
themselves were, for various reasons, non-functional. A
solution was found by diverting the sewage into the drains
which were meant to carry clean rain water into the lakes. The
result was that the lakes were full of filth and sludge and
empty of water.
Mr. Ram Murthi had to do a lot of detective work before he
discovered the fact that both the clean water and the raw sewage
found their way into the lakes through the same pipes.
We give below Mr. Ram Murthi's own account of the story of our
"In early 1997, I happened to go to Bellandur lake and was shocked
to find "it is no more a lake but a toilet bowl of the city". An
average 70 percent of sewage slush and effluents had turned this
large lake (650 acres) into a filthy swamp. It had created
innumerable health hazards by polluting the drinking water and
air. God gave me the strength and courage to fight this
unforgivable crime committed by our own people.
For a year I had to approach several Government officials and had
to highlight this through various media. Finally, I approached the
High Court of Karnataka with the help of the Bellandur panchayath
and its chairman Mr. K. Jaganath. On 28th July 1999, the court
gave directions to the Karnataka Government to:
Arrest sewage flowing into the storm water drains
Arrest sewage and industrial effluents entering the lakes.
Treat the sewage water and not to store it in public places.
drains and the lakes in the city.
All the lakes to be protected and to be maintained
as they existed earlier.
Protect the number of lakes and their area as per
Construct public toilets in slum areas.
Now every one has witnessed the ongoing developments of de-silting
of lakes, laying of sewage lines, de-silting of minor and major
storm water drains, construction of additional sewage treatment
plants and the revival of existing treatment plants and sewage
pumping stations. All this is due to God's wish, who pushed me
vigorously for a non-stop 5000 hours, and now I only hope that the
citizens will monitor our lakes continuously like watch dogs as
various governments come and go."
Originally the BWSSB had laid out two systems, an underground one
for sewage and another for storm water drainage. The main purpose
of the underground drainage system was to take the raw sewage to a
sewage treatment plant, and then to discharge the treated water
according to the standards prescribed by the Pollution Control
In the case of the stream of sewage flowing from MICO to the
treatment plant, the system never worked because the sewage
treatment plant was higher than the underground pipes. None of the
concerned authorities have made any attempt to rectify this fault
until now. This underground drainage discharges 100 to 150 million
gallons of sewage per day, from the Market, Wilson Garden, MiCO
and Koramangala; but the authorities had taken an easy way out,
and diverted the raw sewage into the storm water drain and into
The situation bas been further aggravated by the blocking of the
whole system during the construction of the Koramangala sports
complex. The result is that the residents of Koramangala as wall
as the down stream villages are directly exposed to every kind of
The other stream of sewage from Madivala, Agara, J.P. Nagar,
Jayanagar, B.T.M. Layout etc. also directly enters the Jake. The
BWSSB has built a pumping station near Agara to pump the raw
sewage to the sewage treatment plant, However, this pumping
station too has never worked. The entire structure is in an
unworkable condition. One can see a huge pipe which carries raw
sewage gushing into the lake. Near the Sports Complex also you can
see a large number of massive pipes of 7ft. dia lying unused. The
Government and the concerned department have totally wasted our
tax payer's money, while the local residents are living in an
extremely foul environment. The health of the people is
jeopardized due to:
an unbearable mosquito menace
a foul smell throughout the year, but intensified during the
The residents of Koramangala and nearby villages depend entirely
on underground water which has got mixed with sewage. An
investigative report reveals that this water is not fit for human
As per the International Standard for potable water, 56
parameters have to be analysed. If we analyse all these parameters
this water will be found to have a very high level of persisting
chemicals, especially "Carcinogenic". "Genotoxic", and the highly
hazardous heavy metals like "Lead", "Chromium". "Cadmium", which
are also found in the water discharged in and around Bangalore.
These heavy metals and carcinogenic compounds are Silent Killers.
How the system failed:
Most of the underground drainage pipes which carried raw sewage to
the sewage treatment plant were either blocked or damaged. So
BWSSB conveniently diverted this sewage into the storm water drain
which flows into the various lakes in Bangalore. The largest
quantity of this sewage ultimately reaches the Bellandur tank.
Think of the smaller lakes like Ulsoor lake, Madivala lake, Agara
lake etc, which are situated in the centre of the city. You can
imagine the contamination of the ground water in their
surroundings. What is the purpose of laying underground drainage
pipes and not making sure that they worked? Will the Government
ever realise their accountability for their failures?
At one place you see huge underground drainage pipes lying empty
and Don-functional, and a few metres away you see a storm water
drain carrying raw sewage along with other industrial effluents
(such as acids, oils, grease and other toxins). Another few metres
away you may see a lake converted into a filthy, foul smelly
"Sewage Swamp" of course raw sewage was let in these lakes, also
most of them situated in the central locality of the city.
But the general public was not aware of this fact as they were
misled by BWSSB from trrne to time, just as they were about
illegal layouts, damaged pipes and nearby slums.
Over 25,000 cattle drink this contaminated water. The milk and
other products of these animals must have a direct bearing on
The fodder produced in this area is being supplied to other cattle
also; fodder which is contaminated by heavy metals and persistent
Here in this area vegetables were grown and supplied to the city.
Of late the farmers have to use highly potent pesticides which add
to the problems of consumer's health, Unlike other countries, our
country has no monitoring system for vegetables,
As per the Water Act, Section 48, the pollution control board can
take action on the Heads of Departments. Unfortunately, the board
seems to be totally blind to such negligence. Polluting
underground water, surface water and renewable water is a CRlME,
because potent non-degradable chemicals are being allowed to
accumulate and poison our water sources. This affects not only the
Present Generation but also Future Generations.
What we should do now:
As we have seen, the underground system has failed in many pans
of Bangalore, and only a small portion of raw sewage reaches the
sewage treatment plant, which also functions to half its capacity
(220 MLD against 403MLD). Now there are three plants in
K & C Valley (95/163)
V. Valley (95/180)
Hebbal Valley (30/60)
None of them are designed for treating industrial effluents.
The Government is misled as they are not aware of the
complications of raw sewage disposal which is very high during the
rainy season as the rain water gets mixed and enters the
underground system in many places of the city.
So during rainy days it may be around 10 to 20 times the
quantity which is allowed to be discharged into the lakes
directly (as the sewage treatment plants cannot treat so much).
Can the Government install 10 sewage treatment plants only for
How is the Government going to tackle the industrial effluents
which now flow into open drains and ultimately into the lakes?
The raw sewage volume (on non-rainy days) has increased
enormously and is flowing through a canal by-passing the sewage
treatment plants; only a small quantity of sewage enters the
sewage treatment plants in a pipe for "formality". (You don't
need an expert environmentalist, scientist and mathematician to
distinguish between the quantum of pipe and canal).
During power shortages, breakdowns, the sewage treatment plants
cannot function, and ultimately discharge into the nearby lakes
directly without treating it.
What is the Solution?
Wherever possible pure rain water must be canalized to the
lakes with the existing storm water drains after de-silting.
Allowing raw sewage into storm water drains must be stopped at
Industrial effluents and raw sewage must be taken away from the
city, keeping in view the future growth of Bangalore due to the
Ground water contamination in the city cannot be tolerated any
more as it could affect the millions of present and future
Long-term permanent sewage disposal can be arrived at involving
all the latest technology of wetland method.
Ground pollution may not be that critical as millions live in
the city only. (This does not mean the ground should be allowed
Karnataka High Court in its interim order dated 27.7.1999
directed the Government to "divert the entire open sewage water
through drainage channels either through underground or open
drainage, to be cleanly maintained to a particular place which is
not a tank or public place; and treated water must be used for
irrigation or gardening" .
Mr Ram Murthi
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