Along with treated water, Bengaluru seems to be exporting its trademark froth from lakes to the neighbouring district of Kolar.
The nearly ₹1,400 crore Koramangala-Challaghatta Valley project, which can pump nearly 400 million litres per day of ‘treated’ sewage to the parched district, has started frothing.
Though there were concerns of the stench in the pumped water, for locals, the matter reached a point of anxiety on Wednesday when they saw froth near Lakshmisagar lake — much like in Bellandur and Varthur lakes from where the treated water was being pumped.
At present, between 100 and 125 MLD of secondary treated sewage is being pumped, with the capacity expected to be ramped up in the coming months.
As videos of the froth began circulating on social media networks and opposition mounted, officials of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), who run the Sewage Treatment Plants, and the Minor Irrigation Department, who pump the ‘treated’ water, inspected the supply line.
The issue, claimed BWSSB, stemmed from the heavy rains of July 13-14, which led to ‘back up’ at their newly-commissioned STP. “Due to the heavy rains, some untreated sewage had filtered into the pipes. While we rectified the issues in the STP, the sewage water had already been pumped by the Minor Irrigation Department,” said E. Nityananda Kumar, Chief Engineer (Waste Water Management).
Pumping had been stopped while the sewage in the pipes was being removed. Minor Irrigation Department officials said it would take a day or two for the situation to normalise and only ‘secondary treated’ water to flow.
Residents’ fears come true
Earlier in June, when trial runs started and Kolar’s ‘first permanent irrigation project’ saw water flow, there were tears in the eyes of Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar. However, in the coming days, residents were shedding tears due to the stench from the treated water.
The froth, claim many residents, is a manifestation of the polluted water being pumped. Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha State unit vice president K. Narayana Gowda said their worst fears have come true barely a month after the supply of water began.
“Authorities have neglected our warnings and implemented the project without taking into consideration our reservations about water quality,” he said.
V. Geetha, State unit president of All India Democratic Women’s Association, who has opposed the project from the start, was blunt. “The project is not in the interest of people. It is now feeding poison to the people in the name of filling tanks with treated water,” she said.
However, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) officials maintain that the incident of frothing was an ‘isolated’ one due to an oversight. “We will increase coordination with the Minor Irrigation Department to prevent such mistakes,” said an official.
Even though STPs do not filter out phosphorus, which is believed to be responsible for froth in Bellandur lake, officials say treated water is more than sufficient for groundwater recharge. “Even phosphorus and nitrates, which are used in agriculture, are within limits. There is no frothing because of this. Wednesday’s froth was due to a small mistake that is being rectified,” said Ravindrappa, Chief Engineer, Minor Irrigation Department.
The incident is expected to lead to objections, particularly to a similar project that is under way to pump treated water from the Hebbal Valley towards 65 lakes in Chikkaballapur while further treated water from the Koramangala-Chellaghatta valley is being pumped to 69 lakes in Anekal.
May 2016: Foundation stone for project laid by former CM Siddaramaiah
June 2018: Trial runs commence
July 2018: Residents complain of stench, gushing water spews froth