Signalling a significant step towards preventing frothing and excessive algal growth in water bodies such as lakes, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has directed manufacturers of detergents to adhere to revised specifications for phosphate content issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
This has been a long-pending demand from citizens, environmentalists and scientists since the frothing and fuming in lakes of Bengaluru became international news.
The revised standards limiting phosphate content were in turn issued as per directions given by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on a 2017 application pertaining to Agara, Bellandur and Varthur lakes, the KSPCB has said.
“All manufactures located in the State of Karnataka are hereby informed and directed to adhere to the standards with immediate effect. Similarly, detergent powders, detergent bars and synthetic detergents manufactured outside Kamataka are also required to adhere to the above specifications while being marketed in the State,” the recent notice by the pollution control board said.
According to the KSPCB, as per the NGT directions, the BIS has limited the phosphate content in household laundry detergent powders, detergent bars and synthetic detergents for washing woollen and silk fabrics as the presence of phosphorous in excess in water bodies is known to cause “eutrophication” (loosely defined as accumulation of nutrients), leading to algal growth. This poses risk to aquatic life.
Implementation key to rejuvenation
Srinivasulu, Member Secretary, KSPCB told The Hindu that the notification from the BIS is applicable with immediate effect.
Prof. T.V. Ramachandra from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, said the BIS restrictions would prove useful in the rejuvenation scheme as the present treatment options are not capable of removing the nutrients. But this alone would not help, he pointed out. “Along with this, industry has to treat its effluents, and sewage needs to be treated too. Hopefully, all of these together will help in rejuvenation,” he added.
Nitrates and phosphates have a foaming effect, explained U.V. Singh, member of the NGT-appointed committee to oversee the protection and rejuvenation of Agara, Bellandur and Varthur lakes. “Subsequently, due to the sluice gates, foaming has reduced. But the entry of phosphates has not reduced because the generation of phosphates is due to soaps and detergents and other such things. There was a proposal earlier too that the BIS should have limitations similar to those in developed countries,” he said.
But he too said this cannot be a “spot-fix” process ending with the order. “There need to be some alternatives if industries have to switch to other remedies. This is a beginning, but it needs to be collaborated with the industry and agencies implementing the directions. There are not many big industries in Karnataka, and most of them are coming from outside the State, over which the KSPCB has no jurisdiction. To make the BIS directions effective, it will take time, and the Central government’s Ministry of Environment should also intervene. It should be monitored though, because without monitoring and continuous persuasion, it cannot be done. It has to be done in a time-bound manner,” Mr. Singh added.
Asked about plans to implement the directions, Mr. Srinivasulu said, “We are abiding by directions of the NGT. We are communicating the BIS specifications to everybody. Not only the pollution control board, different agencies are looking at the quality of products, including the BIS.”