A sustained citizen movement and a barrage of objections have seen the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) relent from its rule making it compulsory for all apartments with 20 or more units to have sewage treatment plants.
On March 18, the draft notification of the Bangalore Sewerage (Amendment) Regulations, 2017 was published, with the regulations on dual piping (for reusing recycled water within apartments) and establishment of STPs significantly changed. Though BWSSB has given citizens a window of 30 days for objections, the notification is not publicly available.
However, according to information obtained by The Hindu , the changes incorporated include exempting existing apartments with between 20 and 50 units from setting up STPs or dual piping — a demand of citizen’s groups. Nearly 3,800 apartments were penalised and ₹1.6 crore collected from such apartments. “The penalty collected apartments will be reimbursed,” a senior BWSSB official said.
But there is little relief for apartments with more than 50 units. Existing apartments have been given time till December 31 to recycle and reuse sewage generated.
The contentious clauses had been implemented through a notification in March last year, which gave apartments time till October 2016 to implement the rule. Numerous meetings were held with Ministers, while over 300 apartments petitioned the Chief Minister. The apartments pleaded that the system was not just expensive but also could not be constructed considering the lack of space in older apartments.
M.S. Shankar, convenor of Fight for RERA-Karnataka, cautiously welcomed the amendments. “In some ways, it is good that BWSSB is seeking citizens’ opinion on these laws rather than shocking us with implementation. However, we want all existing apartments to be exempted from establishing STPs. Some of these do not have space, and their structures will not allow for dual piping,” he said.
However, Sharachchandra Lele, Senior Fellow at Ashoke Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), said the fundamental issues continue to remain unaddressed. “The BWSSB is criminalising those who stay in apartments, which anyway pay sanitary charges for their underground drainage connections... by shifting responsibility on these citizens, the BWSSB has given up on its statuary obligations in dealing with sewage,” he said, adding that a system of incentives and subsidies should have been implemented instead of penalties.
Moreover, the BWSSB has already started constructing massive STPs to handle nearly 1,450 million litres of sewage generated in the city. “What is the logic of forcing citizens to recycle water when BWSSB is doing the same?” Dr. Lele asked.
Handling industrial waste
Industrial sewage flowing through storm-water drains or into waterbodies may be a thing of the past if the Supreme Court’s order is followed to the dot.
The SC order — which is to be implemented through the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) — mandates that any industry with consent to operate must have a primary effluent treatment plant from where the let-out has to be processed through a Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CEPT). The order, passed a month ago, states that industries have time till May 22 to implement the order, failing which action, including suspension of licence and cutting electricity and water supply, will be taken.
Last year, over 3,400 industries were given consent to operate for a period of five years; but there are just 10 CEPT plants. Though officials estimate that more than three-fourths of the industries have some form of basic treatment, they are not taking any chances. “We have notified industries and have started surveys to find out how many do not have functional ETPs,” said Lakshman, chairman, KSPCB.
While the apex court has given three years for the setting of CEPTs, the KSPCB has started constructing one at Peenya — one of the largest industrial clusters in the city.
S. Babu, former president of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said most industry units had an ETP, but their functionality is in doubt. “Even the CEPT run by KIADB (Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board) in Doddaballapur is not functioning to its capacity. All this had to be planned, but the authorities are waking up late now,” he said.