Bangalore Environment Trust Newsletter, November 2004

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 Bangalore lakes:

"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:

  1. Arrest sewage flowing into the storm water drains

  2. Arrest sewage and industrial effluents entering the lakes.

  3. Treat the sewage water and not to store it in public places.

  4.  De-silt drains and the lakes in the city.

  5.  All the lakes to be protected and to be maintained as they existed earlier.

  6.   Protect the number of lakes and their area as per revenue records.

  7.  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."

Original System:

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 Board.

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 Bellandur tank.

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 infection.

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:

  1. an unbearable mosquito menace

  2. a foul smell throughout the year, but intensified during the lean season.

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 consumption.

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.
After Effects:

Over 25,000 cattle drink this contaminated water. The milk and other products of these animals must have a direct bearing on consumers.

The fodder produced in this area is being supplied to other cattle also; fodder which is contaminated by heavy metals and persistent chemicals.

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 Bangalore:-

  • 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 this period?

  • 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?

  1. Wherever possible pure rain water must be canalized to the lakes with the existing storm water drains after de-silting.

  2. Allowing raw sewage into storm water drains must be stopped at once.

  3. Industrial effluents and raw sewage must be taken away from the city, keeping in view the future growth of Bangalore due to the following reasons:-

  1. Ground water contamination in the city cannot be tolerated any more as it could affect the millions of present and future generations.

  2. Long-term permanent sewage disposal can be arrived at involving all the latest technology of wetland method.

  3. Ground pollution may not be that critical as millions live in the city only. (This does not mean the ground should be allowed to pollute).

Court's Order

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


Back to News letter