331 industries, apartments under scanner

The reason is faulty sewage and effluent treatment facilities

May 16, 2019 09:38 pm | Updated 09:38 pm IST

The Sewage Treatment Plant next to the swimming pool at Ulsoor, in Bengaluru.

The Sewage Treatment Plant next to the swimming pool at Ulsoor, in Bengaluru.

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has filed notices and cases against 331 industries, establishments, apartments and utilities for not complying with norms of treating sewage and effluents. While their compliance will be monitored, the Board has further given a go-ahead for the preparation of a penalty formula under the ‘polluter pays’ principle against these non-compliant establishments.

Based on an August 2018 National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, which was following up on a Supreme Court order on the monitoring of sewage or effluent treatment plants in the State, KSPCB inspected 5,656 plants for compliance over the past six months. Officials said 44 officers were asked to submit a report after a thorough inspection of every plant in the State.

According to the report, which has been submitted to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 3,265 industries should have had Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) as per the approvals given. While 203 industries had not built the ETPs, a further 68 ETPs were not complying with norms. Of the 2,586 Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), which treat domestic sewage in apartments or municipalities, 59 were non-compliant. Of the just eight Common Effluent Treatment Plants (set up for industrial clusters), one was non-compliant.

In all, barely 5.6% of all treatment plants were found to be non-compliant with norms. This relatively low number is due to continuous monitoring of STPs, some of which was driven by previous NGT cases on Bellandur and Vrishabhavathy valleys. In 2018, KSPCB served notices to nearly 99 apartments in Bengaluru which were dumping sewage directly into lakes while notices were sent for STPs that were not functioning.

“The process of sending notices ensures STPs are taken care of. The problem is with ETPs in industries, and in particular, smaller industries. Every day, we send several notices to these establishments,” said Manoj Kumar, Member secretary, KSPCB.

In all, KSPCB has sent show cause notices in 253 cases, closure notices in 68, and initiated legal action in 10, reveals the Board’s submission to the CPCB monitoring committee earlier in April. The State’s response will be submitted to the NGT along with compliance responses from other States.

Penalty formula

In its August order, NGT had said that CPCB may take penal action against those accountable for setting up and maintaining STPs, CETPs and ETPs. CPCB had drawn up a formula for environmental compensation, which is based on the pollution index (a fixed index based on the effluents emanated by an establishment), size of the industry and its location to human habitation. The minimum suggested penalty is ₹5,000 for every day of violation.

On May 10, KSPCB gave the go-ahead to study the penalty formula, which will then be forwarded to the State government for approval. “Once the government sets rules or issues an order, we will have the statutory powers to implement the CPCB’s suggested penalty formula,” said Mr. Kumar.

Meanwhile, KSPCB has said that four CETPs will be commissioned by the end of the year while 85 STPs were under construction and are expected to be ready by December 2021. Some of these include critical infrastructure to ensure treatment of raw sewage currently flowing into lakes — in particular, Bellandur and Varthur lakes — in Bengaluru.

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