Civic issue
Hundreds of apartment dwellers in Bengaluru protested over BWSSB’s decision to make sewage treatment plants mandatory in complexes having more than 50 units.

Hundreds of apartment dwellers across Bengaluru took to the streets on Saturday morning, protesting against the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board’s (BWSSB) decision to make Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) mandatory for all apartment complexes having more than 50 units.

The silent protest was organised and coordinated by the Bangalore Apartment Federation (BAF), an association of over 175 apartments spread across the city.

Held simultaneously in around 30 areas in the city, protesters stood on footpaths holding up placards against retrospective installation of STPs and alleged harassment by civic bodies.

Apartment owners say that the plan is expensive, as well as not feasible as it comes with several safety risks.

"Sewage treatment plants cannot be imposed in old buildings since these buildings were not built keeping space for a sewage treatment plant in mind. You need a complete overhaul of pipeline and additional space in the building to incorporate a STP, which is unfeasible for many apartments," Suresh Kalyanpur, President of Rustum Baug Residents Association, said at the protest in Old Airport Road.

The government in a submission had reportedly told the National Green Tribunal that apartments contribute less than 3% of the city’s sewage. And many residents feel that they are being unfairly targeted.

Ashis Patel, who was leading the protests in Koramangala, said, "Apartment dwellers are usually god-fearing responsible citizens who pay their taxes on time. The trigger for the protest is the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) forcing us to build STPs after facing rebuke from the NGT."

"We anyway face discrimination. We pay nearly three times more for water and sanitation. Now, they want us to pay for the plants. Altogether we contribute less than 3% of the sewage water that goes to Bellandur. We are not letting our sewage into storm water drains. We are releasing it to the underground drainage system as mandated by the BWSSB," he added.

Others said that it was wrong on the part of the authorities to ask them to install the STPs as they had been paying them for years to treat waste water.

"We have already paid our taxes and cess for treating waste water to the BWSSB. Why are we being forced to pay Rs 1crore now?" Krisnamoorthy, a resident of Kormanagala, asked.

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. The aim is to ensure treated water gets into the drainage system, thereby helping save Bengaluru’s waterbodies.

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. It also made installation of dual pipeline for reusing recycled water within apartments mandatory.

Image source: bwssb.gov.in

With a deadline of December 31, 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 BAF, had earlier told TNM.

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