'Coronavirus in sewage can prove deadly for Bengaluru'

Coronavirus in sewage can prove deadly for Bengaluru: Environment activists

The Bangalore Environment Trust (BET) has written to Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa seeking his urgent intervention to set up a real-time surveillance of sewage and monitoring mechanism

Representative image (DH Photo)

Lack of measures to ensure that coronavirus is not going to spread through waste water may cost the state, and the country, dearly in the coming days, a citizen-led group has warned, citing international studies that showed the presence of the virus in raw sewage as well as treated wastewater.

The Bangalore Environment Trust (BET) has written to Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa seeking his urgent intervention to set up a real-time surveillance of sewage and monitoring mechanism to understand the risks that Bengaluru is facing.

Follow live updates on coronavirus

The report ‘Blindside’, sent to the chief minister, notes that the presence of coronavirus in faeces and urine was first confirmed by the United States in January, the study cited four other studies that detected the virus in the sewage, including the research from France which found the virus in treated water.

“Given the poor state of our sewage infrastructure, there is an amplified risk of the pandemic virus spreading to people and animals,” the study by Nirmala Gowda, Dr Nidhi Paliwal, Rajani Santhosh and Sandhya Balasubramanian has warned.

 

While acknowledging the lack of evidence on infectiousness of the virus in waste water, the study, however, notes that the gap in knowledge should not be considered as evidence of non-infectiousness. 

“What we don’t know is enormous,” it says, but points to the “grossly mismanaged urban sewage”  is at the crux of the problem as broken sewage treatment plants (STPs) and mismanagement have been found regularly.  

The virus can come back to our taps, it said, citing the example of the broken STP (180 mld) at Vrishabhavathy valley and the running of sewage into Arkavathy river, which in turn joins Cauvery at Sangama.

It said 500 mld of raw sewage flowing into Bellandur Lake has been diverted to the downstream water bodies. “This is not only polluting the downstream lake but also irreversibly damaging Dakshina Pinakini river,” it added.

Former Environment Secretary A N Yellappa Reddy, chairman of the BET, said the risk to wildlife cannot be ruled out and urged the forest department to monitor waterfowl to gather more information.

The study said effective sewage surveillance can also help the government to indicate the scale of infection in hotspots. It suggested strengthening of STPs, drinking water treatment plants and formation of a pandemic control and prevention committee.