Once a river snaking through the city to taking on a new identity as a giant sewer (often referred to as Bengaluru mori in Kannada), the Vrushabhavathi has been at the forefront of Bengaluru’s map of polluted waterbodies. While others, like the Bellandur ando the Varthur lakes, generated enough bad press to warrant action, the Vrushabhavathi has had little luck.
On Thursday, Minister for Environment, Ecology and Tourism C.P. Yogeshwar, who went on an inspection of the river stretch from the Gali Anjaneya Temple on Mysuru Road till Byaramanagala lake in Bidadi, announced a three-stage treatment scheme for the river water.
Over the next few years, the project, at a cost of ₹1,500 crore, will bring in tertiary treatment to generate water that can be used for irrigation and filling lakes, the Minister said at a press conference in Bidadi after the inspection, accompanied by officials from the BWSSB, the KSPCB, the BBMP, and the Minor Irrigation Department.
“Up to 40% of Bengaluru’s waste water joins the Byramangala lake through the Vrushabhavathi. At present, water is being treated in two stages. This water is not usable for agriculture or any other purposes. On the other hand, treated water is being let into drains without any use. This scheme aims to treat 1,500 MLD of waste water in a scientific way in three stages to fill tanks and lakes and be used for agriculture,” he said, adding that while tertiary treatment for 1 MLD costs ₹1 crore, 1,500 MLD will need ₹1,500 crore.
The project will take three to five years to be completed, he said, after which, barring drinking purposes, the treated water can be utilised for others.
The Minister further explained that the Vrushabhavathi originates in Basavanagudi and is treated in two stages [at Nayandahalli and Mylasandra] before reaching Byramangala.
“One treatment plant is being planned at Bangalore University, but there is opposition to it from the syndicate members. We will convince them about the advantages of establishing one and set it up from the government’s side,” he said.
It has for long been known that untreated water is being dumped into the river on the sly. Acknowledging this, Mr. Yogeshwar said untreated water is being let into the river by factories, apartments, and residential areas and warned that strict action will be initiated against such people as well as officials.
While there are 3,304 industries in the river area, 1,396 are violating KSPCB norms by letting in untreated water. Action has been taken against 1,476 factories, and criminal action against 77. As many as 275 have been closed, he said, adding that he will call for a meeting with all departments concerned in a week.
He announced that he will also talk to the Minor Irrigation department to separate rain water and waste water at Byramangala to fill 142 lakes in the next one to two years.
Though residents and citizen activists leading the fight to save the river welcomed the move, Namami Vrushabhavathi Foundation’s Niveditha Sunkad said it was essential to tackle chemical effluents as well for the plan to work.
“Tertiary treatment is a huge investment. If it is only domestic sewage, water can be used even after secondary treatment. But this is not happening now because industrial sewage is being mixed with domestic sewage. Unless they separate the two and address chemical effluents, it may not work,” she explained.