Civic issues

Representational Image: By Angelsharum via Wikimedia Commons

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) bright idea of tackling its garbage problem by forcing residents to install kitchen pulverisers may finally be scrapped.

Citizen activists and members of Bangalore Eco Club met BBMP officials on Wednesday.

The others present in the meeting were BBMP’s Solid Waste Management Joint Commissioner Sarfaraz Khan and subject experts, like environmental engineer Ananth Kodavasal and Sharath Lele, a scientist at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.

Ananth told TNM, “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This goes against the basic principles of environmental engineering. Ideally, we should segregate waste at the source itself.”

This means separating waste based on whether it is solid/liquid or gas, and even further, like separating water and oil if possible.

“For example, in a potato chips factory, the two major wastes are oils and caustic soda. Often, if there is bad design, the sewage lines maybe clogged as when these two mix, they will form soap,” he explained.

He added, “One, this would mean that our drainage systems have to handle 2.5 times of the present load, which would require a major overhaul in infrastructure, plus already existing sewage treatment plants (STP) cannot process the present amount of waste water.”

“Readying all this infrastructure is an unnecessary cost,” he said, adding that this will increase the incidents of lakes frothing and catching fire in the city.

One of the activists, Seema Sharma told TNM, “The meeting was successful. The officials listened to us and the expert patiently.”

In the meeting, residents convinced theJoint Commissioner that the city’s infrastructure was not ready for the large-scale handling of liquid waste. According to those present in the meeting, the BBMP Joint Commissioner said that pulverisers won’t be made compulsory in a city-wide scale.

The Joint Commissioner also said that he was awaiting an expert opinion on whether it can be implemented under special circumstances.

Pulverisers are electrical grinders which can crush domestic organic waste. Then, the waste can be released through existing sewage connections, the civic body had proposed in its council meeting.

Activists and experts have earlier pointed out how this will lead to the city dealing with a severely clogged drainage system and instead composting should be encouraged.

Speaking to TNM earlier, Ramprasad, convenor of Friends of Lakes, said for this system to work an additional 10-20 litres of water to push the pulverised garbage from every household will be required.

Bengaluru, which draws its water from Cauvery from a distance of at least 100 kilometres or from borewells when its groundwater levels are already seeing dangerously low levels, cannot afford this water.

Moreover, the present STPs are not equipped to handle bulk organic waste and this will lead to further complications with regard to polluted lakes and groundwater.

Another issue is that pulverised food waste is bound to clog drains. This is because food waste contains unsaturated fats, which solidify at room temperature and can build up inside pipes.

One such incident reported in London saw a “fatberg weighing the same as 11 double decker buses and stretching the length of two football pitches” clogging the sewage network.