The BWSSB is taking up works to stop more than 250 mld of sewage from entering the lakes, including 4 mld from the Covid-19 hotspot of Hongasandra.
But even as the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board is preparing to commission the works to replace 30-year-old sewer lines or lay new ones, environmentalists are asking for the sewage to be tested before and after treatment for the presence of coronavirus.
The board must ensure sewerage networks are laid everywhere to comply with the National Green Tribunal order on keeping the city lakes pollution-free.
But an official said the fact of Hongasandra becoming a hotspot with 21 cases cannot be the cause for delay since the NGT had warned of stern action against errant officials if the board fails to complete the work in four months’ time. It should lay trenches and pipes and restore old lines in the short timeframe available.
A citizen-led group released a report earlier this week warning that coronavirus can invade waterbodies through feces and urine. It had cited four research studies from France and the United States that found the virus present in sewage and treated water.
In December, the green tribunal castigated the BWSSB for allowing the discharge of 256.7 mld of untreated sewage into the lakes, calling it a ‘criminal offence’ and issued a warning that errant officials will be appropriately dealt with under the civil, criminal and service law with a view to uphold the rule of law. The tribunal fixed September 2020 as the final deadline for stopping the sewage flow into the lakes.
‘Unregulated construction has led to over-population (in several areas) that has put pressure on the old sewer lines laid in the 1990s,’ said an official. ‘In Hongasandra ward, for example, we estimate about 3 to 4 mld of sewage overflows into the underground drainage (UGD) and joins the stormwater drain connecting the Agara Lake,’ the official added, pointing out that the water goes up to the Bellandur Lake.
Sources said despite the submission of proposals for over 100 UGD-related works more than six months ago, the approval has come only recently.
Labourers leaving city
‘In the past 20 days, the board has called more than 80 tenders to lay trunk and lateral (main and domestic) sewage lines. We don’t know how many we would be able to start as labourers are leaving the city,’ the source added.
BSWWB chairman Tushar Girinath said the amount of raw sewage flow into the lakes has been brought down to about 150 mld. ‘We are calling tenders to take up works and comply with the NGT orders. The labourers leaving town may be a problem, but we’ll find ways to overcome it,’ he added.
As for testing the sewage for the presence of coronavirus, Girinath said the BWSSB would wait for protocol from the pollution control authorities.
‘Right now, there is no evidence of the virus contamination through sewage. Only the virus protein has been detected, which only means that it has been deactivated,’ he said.