One murky situation, many questionable ‘solutions’

Toxic foam came back with a vengeance to the surroundings of Bellandur lake during the recent rain in Bengaluru, forcing the National Green Tribunal to pull up State authorities.  

From bacteria to microbes, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has been presented with a number of solutions to a problem it doesn’t seem to quite understand.

Recently, Raaginni Jaain from the Mumbai-based Geetanjali Envirotech poured over hundreds of litres of “soil-based” microbes into an outlet of Bellandur lake. She claimed that the “proprietary blend” of microbes had decreased the voluminous froth in a little more than two days of trials.

This, however, was not backed by the BDA, which shut down the experiment on Monday evening. According to officials, the frothing had reduced because of a combination of additional sprinklers being installed and a lower quantum of water gushing into the lake with the rain subsiding.

But Ms. Jaain is not buying this. “This is not true. It is entirely because our microbes are breaking down the sewage. If this is done for six months, it would clean up the lake,” she said.

Bacteria vs. bacteria

She is not the only one offering “low-cost” solutions using microbes to deal with a problem that seems to be worsening by the year. In the past, people backing Effective Microbial Solutions have come forward for a large-scale clean-up.

Recently, the expert committee on the lake, comprising civic administration officials and researchers, saw a proposal pitting species of bacteria against each other. A city-based company presented the use of a bacterial solution to ‘counter’ the effects of another bacteria, Nocardia, which it claimed was the cause of frothing. The cost of the experiment was ₹25 lakh. The effect, unknown.

While BDA officials said they were considering it, two expert committee members said the science behind it was dubious. “The colour of the froth would be grey or orange if it was being caused by bacteria. Instead, it is pure white,” said T.V. Ramachandra from the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of science.

He believes such experiments, conducted without understanding the consequences, could have a dangerous impact. “The pathological aspect of it has not been understood. Could it lead to more diseases in the neighbourhood?” he asked.

Need for research

Sharachchandra Lele from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment said the microbiologists consulted have said the science behind the experiment does not stand up to scrutiny.

“There is no real evidence of the system working. It hasn’t even been established that bacteria causes this froth. Instead of taking biological risks, the government could have spent money on researching the reasons for frothing and its contributors,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 3:41:51 AM |

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