Article courtesy by Rohith B R | September 13, 2013 | Times of India
There are 626 sewage treatment plants in Bangalore, the highest in any city in the country.
Together, these STPs can treat 834 million liters per day (MLD) of waste water. But truth is, much of the treated water goes down the drain, according to a report by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).
The report by KSPCB’s monitoring committee on the performance of waste water treatment plants says though the units work at 81% of their capacity, there are no facilities to make use of treated water. Usually, reclaimed water is used for toilet flushing and gardening only.
The STPs are installed in apartment complexes, technology parks, hospitals and gated communities, besides those set up by BWSSB. The study by Dr D N Ravi Shankar, technical expert on environment, and M G Yathish, environmental officer with the KSPCB, also says the STPs are not operated scientifically. Often the harmful sludge or slurry generated after sewage treatment is allowed into water bodies. In 95% of the cases, the filter press is not operated at all. In many apartments it is not even commissioned, the report said.
In order to save on space, some apartment complexes have set up STPs in their cellars, leading to noise and odor pollution to occupants.
Private better than public: Interestingly, STPs in private sector treat water to a better extent than their public counterparts, in this case BWSSB. There are 612 waste water treatment plants in the private sector, with a total capacity of 113 MLD. They.They operate at 75% of the designed capacity. BWSSB operates 14 STPs with a total capacity of 721 MLD, but they operate only at 63.5% of their capacity.
Treated water for parks: The report suggests that apartment owners’ associations and BBMP can have a deal to use treated waste water for avenue plantations and maintenance of nearby parks. Also, excess sludge can be allowed in public sewers as the same is treated at nearby BWSSB plants. This way, sludge won’t be pushed into lakes, the report added. However, it’s time KSPCB revisited rules where it does not insist on treatment plants in apartment units with built-up area less than 5,000 sq m in un-sewered areas.
In an age of water scarcity, it only seems realistic to look at treated waste water as an economic resource, not waste product. Which is why it must go beyond mere toilet use or gardening. Studies show reclaimed water is preferred for agriculture in countries that are not water scarce as it serves as a low-cost source of plant nutrients thus reducing dependence on fertilizers. So the use of such water needs to be maximized, more affordable water treatment options explored and efficacy of toilet-to-tap concept popularized among doubting, nose-crinkling end users.