One day black, another day yellow, and some other day turquoise blue; the various hues of the Vrishabhavathi river do not paint a pretty picture. On the contrary, each new colour adds another chapter to the story of how it changed from the only river that originates in the city to serving as a sewer for unwanted garbage, sewage and effluents.
Residents living along the banks of the river got a brief respite during the lockdown when industries were closed, though sewage continued to flow in. But the most recent sighting of yellow water in the river is alarming, they said.
Kambipura resident Nikhil Tiwari said this is an ongoing phenomenon. “It's clearly an effluent let off by some factory. The water is sometimes green or turquoise blue depending on how the chemicals react. For a few days during the lockdown, we saw the water was much cleaner than usual. But as restrictions were eased once lockdown was lifted, it got progressively bad,” he said.
Minister for Forest and Ecology B.S. Anand Singh convened a meeting on Wednesday after seeing a series of tweets on the water quality on August 18.
One of the residents, who attended the meeting, said they were aware of the river being a complicated issue. “They (the government) want citizens to work along with them on implementable solutions. This has to be approached from all dimensions. Work is going on. They're also looking out for alternative solutions,” she said.
The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has been open about industrial effluents being illegally dumped into its network and the river. But the Peenya Industries Association (PIA) claims that this is being strictly monitored.
Prakash C., senior vice president, PIA, said the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) is “very active with this issue”. “Nowhere is anyone dumping effluents into manholes. The pollution index has increased because of various factors, including groundwater contamination. But it is under control now. If there is a single complaint, we will ensure action is taken against them. We have requested the KSPCB to give us information. We want to join hands with them to prevent pollution,” he said.
He added that the industrial area has norms for those producing effluents, and a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) is on the cards with tenders to be floated in August.
“The BBMP is collecting SWM cess from us, but they say commercial waste cannot be picked up. So what should we do? Show us the place where we can discard waste or take more money and do it. There needs to be a solution,” he said.
But Niveditha Sunkad from Namami Vrishabhavathi Foundation said coloured water has been an issue since several years, and a CETP in one area is not going to be of major help. “These are effluents from the dyeing industries. They are being let into the river from different places. One can see it near R.R. Nagar, Banashankari, near Krishna Garden and Kumbalgodu. The KSPCB has to reign it in. For the past five years, we've been raising the issue of coloured water. How will a CETP in Peenya help?”
Citizens have suggested an online monitoring system along the river with information being made transparent for the public to know where the pollutants are coming from. “Even the BWSSB has said that unless chemicals are taken out of their network, their STPs won’t work. Now technology is available for compact solutions,” she added.
Mr. Anand Singh and KSPCB officials were not available for comments.