Toxic effluents discharged into lakes near Peenya Industrial Area have left several lakes in the area contaminated with high-levels of non-biodegradable chemicals, as well as heavy metals.

How Bengalurus Peenya Industrial Area has choked and killed its surrounding lakes
Delve Environment Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - 15:57

The frothy, smelly and fire-catching Bellandur Lake is not the only problem child in Bengaluru. While Bellandur Lake has become infamous for frothing and foaming for years, it diverted attention from a much larger problem – the magnanimity of pollution going unchecked in the Peenya Industrial Area and its toxic effluents being drained out into multiple lakes as well as the Vrishabhavathi River.

Once rich in water bodies, the number of lakes in the catchment of the Vrishabhavathi River has reduced by half. More so in and around Peenya after the rise of industries in the locality.

Established in the 1970s, the Peenya Industrial Belt includes major industrial areas like Peenya, Yeshawanthapura, Rajajinagar, Jalahalli, Goraguntepallya and Dasarahalli. This belt has registered more than 7500 industries, and most of them are engineering and textile-related industries.

Kalkere Lake foaming, September 2018

Peenya Industrial area is covered by 31 BBMP Wards, in that Yeshwanthapura, Jalahalli, HMT Layout, Goraguntepallya, Marappana pallya, Nandhini Layout, Laggere, Peenya Industrial Area, Nagasandra, T Dasarahalli, KalyanaNagara, Bagalkunte, Shettihalli, Kuvempu Nagara, Vidyaranyapura, RMV II Stage, Mattikere comes within the study area and Atturu, Yelahanka Satellite Town, Aramane Nagara, Subramanya Nagara, Hegganahalli, Dooda Bidarakallu wards

Currently the lakes in and around this area include the Gangondanahalli, Dasarahalli, Kalkere, Nagasandra and Nelagadaranahalli and Shettyhalli Lakes. Not to mention, the heavily polluted Byramanagala reservoir.

Over the years, Bengaluru’s civic body – the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), has taken measures to set up sewage treatment plants in some of the lakes in and around the industrial zone. But the BBMP’s works have remained an eyewash.

The polluted lakes

Of the various lakes in and around Peenya, the worst affected is the Nelegadaranahalli Lake.  So much so, that activists say that the level of contamination in the lake is far worse than that of Bellandur Lake.

“Bellandur has more organic pollution. But in Nelagadaranahalli Lake, there is cadmium, zinc, nitrates and heavy industrial pollution. It doesn't foam, of course but the pollution is far worse and this water is flowing into our rivers. There is not a single lake in this area which is clean. All of them need attention, immediately,” says Ramprasad, convenor of Friends of Lakes.

Nelagadaranahalli Lake choked with pollutants

According to a study conducted by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Envirnoment (ATREE), the entire surface water belt in the Peenya Industrial Area is heavily contaminated with untreated industrial effluents.

“Our assessment of the water quality in the urban river stretch, the Byramangala reservoir, the irrigation channels, and groundwater in the command area points to serious biological and chemical contamination. This poses grave health risks to the farmers who grow, and the urban consumers who consume, the agricultural produce,” the ATREE report states.

The level of contamination

Activists say that the lakes located in this belt have high levels of non-biodegradable chemicals, as well as heavy metals exceeding the industrial effluent discharge standards.

“The problem is that not all industries have effluent treatment plants within their premises. According to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board’s standards, the industries should set up ETPs to treat the effluents or send it to a common ETP, in case they don’t have the ability to run an ETP. This process is not happening,” says Dr Sharadchandra Lele, a researcher with ATREE, who has extensively studied the ecological damage caused by the industries in the area.

Sources with the KSPCB say that most of the industries have resorted to finding a backdoor to violate the norms. Over 60% of the industries in the area do not have ETPs, officials say and most of the industrial waste ends up flowing into the lake and the Vrishabhavathi River.

Vrishabhavathi River  

“The cost of treating industrial effluents is high. Some of the industries have ETPs, most of them don’t. These industries have connected the effluent discharge pipes into the sewage lines. These sewage lines carry the industrial waste into the primary storm water drains and they land up in the lakes and ultimately the river,” the source added.  

According to the ATREE study, the faecal coliform (FC) found in the water bodies in the industrial belt was 100 times greater than WHO norms. Faecal coliform is a group of gram negative bacteria that indicate the presence of pathogens in water. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, the level of FC should be less than 103 most probable number (MPN)/100 ml if wastewater is reused for irrigation.

The water in the Byramanagala reservoir is used by surrounding villages for irrigation purposes. The study also found that the FC levels in the upstream areas of the Vrishabhavathi River were 100,000 times more than the prescribed norms.

KSPCB cracks down on polluting industries

Speaking to TNM, KSPCB’s Environmental Officer for Dasrahalli, Raju, said that nine illegal dyeing industries were issued closure notices on October 6. These dyeing units, officer Raju says had violated all of the pollution control board’s norms regarding effluent treatment and were polluting nearby water bodies. 

“These industries had not obtained a license from KSPCB and were carrying out operations without a license. The dyeing industries produce a lot of effluents and it is compulsory for these units to treat the effluents before discharging them into storm water drains. But these nine units were disposing untreated effluents into the primary drains directly,” he said. 

The KSBCP also found that these dyeing units had encroached upon agricultural land, which had resulted in the pollution of the soil in surrounding areas. “We constantly monitor these things. This year alone we have issued notices to many licensed and unlicensed industries to explain the laxity in effluent treatment. One opportunity for rectification is given. If the industries carry on flouting norms, that’s when we issue closure orders,” he said. 

Polluted Byramangala reservoir

“As the river flows, because of dilution, sedimentation, and other instream processes, the levels of heavy metals in the water reduce. But even after this reduction the levels observed in the water at the point of use for irrigation at the three study villages are higher than the guidelines set by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), especially for manganese and nickel. Significant heavy metal concentrations were found in the fodder, milk, and vegetables that are produced in these villages,” the report added.

The reservoir was constructed in 1943, at Byramangala village. This reservoir is an example of the level of contamination in the lakes across the industrial belt in Peenya. Continuous inflows of wastewater into the reservoir has led to foul stench, black coloured water and large amounts of froth form at both inlet and outlet of the reservoir. Ultimately, the domestic sewage and the industrial effluents are flowing into the Vrishabhavathi River.

“The cows drink water from the reservoir. The effluents get absorbed into the soil before penetrating the ground water belt. This has contaminated the soil and crops grown here are also contaminated. The milk is contaminated and farmers who work her have skin diseases. This could lead to kidney-related diseases and also cancer,” says Pramod Baliga, a citizen activist, who has been fighting for rejuvenation of lakes in the area for eight years.

Why does the problem remain unsolved?

According to Dr Lele, one of the major reasons why the water contamination in the area has not been addressed is due to the lacunae in monitoring and regulating the effluent discharge.

“Corresponding to the problem of industries not following the norms is the efforts of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) towards treatment of sewage in the whole catchment and also the KSPCB’s efforts to monitor pollution and enforce the law vis-à-vis both the BWSSB and the industries. The findings were quite revealing when we researched,” Dr Lele says.

Dr Lele’s team found that the treatment of sewage has not been a priority for the BWSSB in the area and only half the contaminated water is being treated. The team also found that existing treatment plants function far below installed capacity.

“The mixing of river water leads to malfunctioning of the treatment plants, resulting in untreated effluents that do not at all meet discharge standards set by the law,” he adds.

Ramprasad maintains that the KSPCB’s monitoring of these plants is faulty and that massive changes are required in the organisation itself for better management and execution of policies.

When the KSPCB conducted tests on the water samples, the results showed that the level of contaminants were within permissible limits. However, Dr Lele says that the KSPCB conducts tests on one sample taken once a year, while the water quality is something which must be monitored throughout the year.

“There are some months when it rains. The test results will be different. The tests must be conducted at different times of the day too to get effective results and KSPCB does not do that. Besides, most of the time the officials are busy handling paper work than carrying out actual work.  Also, the KSPCB is headed by a forest officer. There is no representation from the people who are affected and no scientists on its board. This needs to change,” he points out.




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