Not only is such a plan expensive for apartment owners – it’s also not feasible and comes with several safety risks they say.

Sewage Treatment Plants for apartments not feasible Bengaluru residents to protestRepresentational Image: Gaurav Vaz/ Pickle Jar
news Civic issues Monday, November 20, 2017 - 19:52

Bengaluru resident who live in apartments are not happy. The state government’s decision to make it mandatory for all apartment complexes having more than 50 units to have their own Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) has left them angry and frustrated. Not only is such a plan expensive for apartment owners – it’s also not feasible and comes with several safety risks they say.

And to get the government to listen to their concerns, Bangalore Apartments Federation (BAF) has decided to form a human chain in the city on December 2. BAF has a total of 174 apartment complexes under its umbrella.

The issue

In March 2016, the Karnataka government passed a notification for STPs to be installed in all apartment complexes, and the rule was applied retrospectively to all apartments within the BWSSB limits. Initially, it was applicable to all apartment buildings with more than 20 units. Later, in March 2017, the rule was relaxed and made only for apartments with more than 50 units.

If apartment complexes don’t follow the rule, they face the risk of having their water connection and other amenities like electricity disconnected from their households.

“Moreover they have threatened to start criminal proceedings against us,” Murlidhar Rao, vice-president of Bangalore Apartments Federation told TNM.

“This is completely irrational and we are only releasing the sewage in the underground drainage system,” Murlidhar said.

‘Why are we being punished?’

The government in a submission had reportedly told the NGT said that apartments contribute less than 3% of the city’s sewage.

“Then what is the reason for forcing us to build STPs? It is like we are the scapegoat when they are being criticised for foaming of lakes,” Murlidhar said.

Murlidhar states that the government’s stand can be understood for apartments which release untreated sewage directly to lakes and tanks or if it was meant for a township.

“Now we have to find 8000 square feet of open space. Building a STP is no joke, it will also cost at least Rs 50 lakh. Moreover we have to have an infrastructure ready to reuse this treated water for flushing. This additional plumbing infrastructure is going to cost a crore at least,” Murlidhar stated.

The residents had protested shortly after the notification was issued and had meeting with meetings and officials. After those meetings proved to be fruitless and only the deadline was extended to December 31, the citizens moved to court.

Currently, at least three cases related to this are being heard in the Karnataka High Court.

“Every time the hearing comes, the lawyers representing the authorities seek adjournments and are biding time. We have also impleaded ourselves in a case at the NGT,” Murlidhar said.

Threat to building safety

Moreover, a study commissioned by the BAF found that building STPs in these apartments may pose a threat to the safety of these buildings. The study was conducted by two structural engineers – BN Nagaraja, retired chief engineer of CPWD, and Ashok Rao and an independent consultant.

Speaking to TNM, Srikanth Narasimhan, General Secretary of BAF said that this is not the only issue they would be protesting against the BWSSB and other authorities for.

In May 2017, Srikanth has said that the notification is illegal as any rule to be applied retrospectively had to be passed by two houses of the legislature, in his article for Citizen Matters.

“We as apartments are made to pay thrice the amount of money for the same water. We are forced to pay other cess like Solid Waste Management Cess but we don’t get the service,” he said.

The association alleged that the KSPCB has served notices to apartments having STPs for not maintaining the desired standards of treatment. Incidentally, all the apartments have been served notices with the same value.  

Narasimhan also alleged that the KSPCB changes its guidelines too often.

However, the BWSSB does not see any problem with that.

“As per the Government Order, the apartments who have not installed STPs will have to pay 50% of their water charges as their fine. The claims made by the residents have already been reviewed and then only the notifications were issued,”  BWSSB Chief Engineer Kempaiah told TNM.


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