The State is reeling under the impact of a drought year, reservoir levels have plummeted and Bengaluru is staring at an impending water crisis. Yet, of the 1,400 million litres a day (MLD) of sewage generated in the city, a meagre 1% is reused.
A day after ‘World Water Day’ was observed, the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) had organised a discussion on ‘Wastewater-a curse or an untapped resource?’ on Thursday. It revealed how Bengaluru is failing to take what could be a small step towards resolving its water woes.
“We are in the 21st century, with infrastructure of the 20th century, administration of the 19th century and mindset of the 18th century. The concept of treating waste water was thought of only around 1980. Even now, Bengaluru is functioning with half the treatment capacity,” said Sharachchandra Lele, Senior Fellow and Convenor, Centre for Environment and Development, ATREE.
Pointing out the dangers of not having standards for what irrigation water must look like or the presence of heavy metals in water, he said most farmers today are picking up water coming from a city upstream for irrigation. “We are only tagging water bodies (the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board grades the city’s lakes based on water quality). But what is the desired quality of water?”
Instead of clearly fixing responsibility on urban local bodies, it was being pushed on to citizens, he said, referring to apartment complexes being told to install sewage treatment plants (STPs).
“People don’t know the value of fresh water as they have unlimited access to ground water,” he added.
Also indicating the lack of awareness about water scarcity, Priyanka Jamwal, Fellow, Water, Land and Society Programme, ATREE, said, “Everyone is equally exposed to poor quality air, but some can flush down poor quality water to downstream areas. What city dwellers need to be made aware of is that it will come back to them in the milk and vegetables that they consume.” Durba Biswas, Fellow, Water, Land and Society Programme spoke about how the high and mid-income level houses mitigate the effects of poor quality water, but poorer households have no access or means to do the same.
Priyanka Jamwal, Fellow, Water, Land and Society Programme, ATREE said it is not the lack of technology that is a barrier; rather, it is the lack of capacity and manpower equipped with the right knowledge.
By the estimates of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), the capacity to treat the 1,400 MLD of sewage generated in Bengaluru is 721 MLD. The average treatment quantity is 520 MLD. “Even in the Vrushabhavathi Valley Treatment Plant, one of the oldest in the city, the quality of effluents does not meet standards,” she said.Staff Reporter