‘Treating wastewater will reduce dependence on Cauvery’

Can also ensure that lakes do not dry up

December 19, 2017 10:06 pm | Updated February 03, 2018 01:55 pm IST

The city can reduce its dependence on Cauvery river water by treating its waste water and saving it in lakes. This would also ensure that the lakes do not dry up, according to a study by ATREE on ‘2035 Vision for Water and Wastewater in Bengaluru’, which has proposed an ‘integrated urban water management approach’ to reduce dependency on inter-basin transfers.

The three-year-long research on Bengaluru’s water, wastewater and lake system, was funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada; the Royal Norwegian Embassy; and Oracle Corporation. As part of the research, the team surveyed households and commercial institutions, in addition to taking into account analysis of KSPCB records, population, household and economic census data, the BWSSB billing database and water cess records.

“Our model of Bengaluru’s water, wastewater and lakes suggests that Bengaluru can live on its own resources by utilising both rainwater and recycled wastewater. External dependence on Cauvery could be limited by treating wastewater and storing it in lakes. This would entail a ‘win-win’ for Bengaluru’s lakes and overall resilience while minimising the need for destructive projects,” Veena Srinivasan, Fellow and Programme Leader, Water, Land and Livelihoods Programme, ATREE said.

Need for transparency in records

The study indicated discrepancies in the manner in which government bodies report water data in public records. This is making water use extremely challenging, they said.

While the researchers pointed out that a government body like the BWSSB has not published its annual reports for several years, sometimes there are discrepancies even in the methodology used for collecting data.

Priyanka Jamwal, Fellow, Centre for Environment and Development, ATREE, said they found a huge difference between their own data and that collated by the KSPCB on the Dissolved Oxygen (DO) levels in Jakkur lake. “If officials go during working hours to collect the data, the DO levels are favourable. Only if you go early in the morning can you get accurate data as most of the discharge happen at night. If one goes by the data collected at any other time of the day, the lake appears to be in a healthy state.”

A dashboard for lakes

At the day-long workshop, ATREE announced a ‘Citizen’s Dashboard for Bengaluru’s Lakes’. The dashboard, an open source data platform, is an attempt to spread awareness and provide in-depth information about each and every lake in the city. This would include current data on the quality of water apart from features of the lake, geography and its history. These lakes would also be tagged to maps to make it easier for the public to find them and know about them. According to the team, the dashboard is at present in the beta stage and would be fully functional in the coming months.

“The premise of the dashboard is that despite years of research, both government agencies and citizens are ill-equipped to handle the management of lakes as information is neither consolidated nor made usable to facilitate easy and informed decision making. Moreover, with various stakeholders and government departments having different responsibilities, there is no common platform to bring data and information from all these sources together,” according to S. Vishwanath, Director, Biome Environmental Solutions.

‘Potential of STPs not fully exploited’

Even though the city has several Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), in reality, they are not being used to their full potential, ATREE researchers said. One of the prominent reasons for wastewater treatment not taking off is the lack of a market for the treated wastewater.

Also, in the absence of any incentives for apartments, compliance for waste treatment is low, the study has found.

At present, the city has 14 centralised STPs and 2,200 decentralised STPs. The city discharges 1,400 MLD of waste water every day (including domestic and commercial), of which about 580 MLD is being treated in STPs even though the total capacity of the existing STPs is 721 MLD. Researchers said increasing the number of decentralised STPs would encourage wastewater treatment.

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