A conversation with water conservationist S. Vishwanath about the dying lakes of Bengaluru. What is killing our lakes, and what can our civic agencies or we do about it?
Mohit M. Rao : Whether it is froth all over the lake or encroachments that have caused lakes to go dry, the state of Bengaluru's once-hallowed water bodies is a matter of concern. Last week, six-feet high froth - believed to have caused by the accumulation of detergents and toilet cleaners - brought Varthur Lake to national headlines.
The Hindu : We now welcome S. Vishwanath, water conservationist and founder of Rainwater Club, to take your questions on lakes in the city, what is wrong with them, what should be done by authorities and what can be done individually to protect them.
Rohit : What is being done to this effect?
Vishwanath S : Three things we can do. Push the authorities to set up decentralized sewage treatment plants , more than the total of 25 now proposed to treat every drop of sewage in our city. Demand Extended Producer Responsibility from detergent manufacturers to make better and more eco-friendly detergents
Be personally responsible and make choice to use more eco-friendly detergents and soaps such as that based on soapnuts and soapberries say...
Amruta : All the waster water of industry bodies and other sourcces why it is allowed to the lake which is the source of drinking water.. why proper drainage system is no there to handle it. why the illegal constructions are even allowed near to the lakes
Vishwanath : Amruta , a major component of contamination comes from domestic sewage. That is because not all sewage is collected and there are not enough sewage treatment plants to treat all the sewage generated in our city which is of the order of 1100 million litres per day
Vishwanath : A multiplicity of agencies responsible for many different things makes one pass the buck to the other. We should have a common institution responsible for ALL waters of Bengaluru. Surface water , groundwater, piped water, rainwater and waste-water else there will be no accountability
Rohit : This seems like a problem that could have very well occurred in the past. Are you saying that the population is causing this?
Amruta: Sir, how many plants are there in our city and how much water is getting treated. How is their performance.. is the engine and other equipments are maintained properly?
Shrikant: varthur lake is the best example of human disaster
Rajesh: It is very disheartening to see the city crippling..guess, we will never get our old Bangalore back
RK: donn't dump sewer lines in to lakes...that is a big no no...or have sewer treatment plants and dump water in to lakes only afterwards. In addition install security cameras at lakes so that people don't dump their garbage near lakes.
Guest: Take the step of removing all the lake bed illegal constructions and make the BBMP accountable to any irregularities
Mohit M. Rao: The government's response to issues such as this seems to be: "We are building an STP nearby. When that is set up, the lake will be rejuvenated." Is this really a solution to the overwhelming pollution seen in lakes?
Mohit M. Rao : @Amruta: The city currently has nearly 750MLD capacity sewage treatment plants. However, the city on average produces more than 1200 MLD of sewage. There is a stark contrast there.
Vishwanath : Amruta, There are 25 Sewage Treatment Plants in Bengaluru either already built or being constructed. Many of them do not receive the sewage they are designed for . Some of them do operate well. A good example is the one at Jakkur where a lake gets treated sewage from a well functioning sewage treatment plant through a wetland . The lake is beautiful. Bad examaples are Varthur, Bellandur and Bairamangala
Mohit M Rao: @RK: It would be ideal not to dump sewage into lakes. Unfortunately, the underground drainage system around many lakes, especially on the outskirts of the city, have not been developed or connected to an STP. About CCTV cameras, it may not be a good idea. A few lakes span more than 100-acres. Can we install enough to keep an eye on the lake? Moreover, most of the pollution happens in Storm Water Drains that lead to the lake. I do not think it is impractical to install cameras all along Bengaluru's 700-odd kms of SWD.
Shrikant : Why all are talking about the varthur lake foam...just becz of one pic in the news papers. As it has been happening for a long time and nobody is bothering. Sad such a natural beauty has been destroyed by the people.
Shrikant : BBMP should take strict action if they have the guts to do...as they are the main culprits for the current condition of all the lakes.
Vishwanath : Lakes need citizen engagement . Forming Friends of Lakes for a neighbourhood lake and then pressing authorities for action at the same time raising community awareness is also one way
Guest: similar situation exists in chikvanvaara lake in keregudahalli
Vishwanath : Yes Chikkabanavara is in big trouble too
Rajesh: Similar situation in Jayanthinagar Lake in Horamavu
Guest: its shrinking and action needed asap
Shakuntala: Yes maybe we should start a campaign and conduct protest in front of CM's house
Mohit M. Rao : Mr. Vishwanath: How viable is the STP model for BWSSB? There is no incentive for the agency to speed up their projects - apart from the occasional censure from the court. Should a revenue model around sewage be developed? How is the treatment of raw sewage managed in developed countries?
Vishwanath : Many of the STP's can recover energy through bio-gas generated. Sludge from the STP's can be sold as manure . Tertiary treated water can be sold at a price so as to turn the STP into a revenue centre from the cost centre that it is right now. Chennai for example has 4 STP's which generated enough bio-gas to run themselves.
Shakuntala: can someone come this weekend to protest ?
Mohit M. Rao : And, for the lake itself...is privatisation an option to develop a lake? The experiment was tried for a couple of lakes and has since stalled.
Madhava B: Are protests of any use for lake? Does the government care enough to protect lake? What type of activism can be effective to protect lakes?
Vishwanath : many lakes in the city have been saved by citizen action. Kaikondarahalli on Sarjapur road, Jakkur on Airport road, Herohalli on Magadi road, Narsipura 2 in Vidyaranyapura...all by citizen action
Madhava B: Specifically how? Did they tell BBMP they will raise money to protect lakes or did they pursue with BBMP by protesting and by putting pressure?
Vishwanath : The BBMP and particularly the Chief Engineer in charge of lakes Mr Satish is very proactive and helpful. He helped with the lakes which come under his jurisdiction. The BDA is a tad difficult but still if one pursues it is possible. The cOrporator /MLA too was taken on board in these examples
Mohit M. Rao: We have ten more minutes, and we'll attempt to take as many questions as possible from social media and on this chat
Vishwanath : From the Vrishabhavati near a tank built by Sir M . Visvesvarayya himself, Byramangala
Joydeep: Sir, how helpful is removal of encroachments if the drain is polluttted. The drain near my house is nearly black and smells a lot. This is the same drain that will go to a lake. Can we ensure the drain is cleaned?
Vishwanath : Sewage must be flowing in the drains . This will have to be diverted into the sewage lines by the BWSSB. Only then will it help the lake. Else a STP can be set up near the lake which will pick the sewage from the drains too and treat it before it is led into the lake
Mohit M. Rao: About encroachments and revival of lakes, the state government is now going to undertake an exercise to classify lakes. Do you think there is a concept of non-functional lake?
Mohit M. Rao: Notices have been sent to formed layouts where lakes once existed. Is it practical to even think of reviving lakes where Majestic bus stand or ISRO building is?
Vishwanath : Completely impractical and insensitive.In an era Public Health officials were calling for these tanks to be closed since they had become places for malarial mosquitoes
Mohit M. Rao : So, do we draw the line in 1988 - the time of Lakshman Rau Report - or do we look at lakes that contain water now and tell ourselves that these are the only lakes that need to be protected?
Vishwanath : My take draw the line for now and do not go back in history to rectify errors, slippery slope
Mohit M. Rao : I think we've run out of time. It's has been a fruitful discussion and debate, and hopefully, Bengalureans will one day wake up to pristine lakes instead of billows of froth.
Vishwanath : Amen to that!
Mohit M. Rao : Thank you all for your messages, comments, tweets and retweets.