Toxic water to Kolar: book guilty

The release of toxic water from Bengaluru lakes to tanks in Kolar calls for stringent action against those responsible as it is not just an act of criminal negligence but a violation of basic human rights. The Karnataka government had launched an ambitious plan, known as KC Valley Project, to treat water from the polluted Bellandur and Varthur lakes and supply it to rain-starved Kolar district where most water bodies have gone dry. The objective was to provide water for irrigation and recharge the groundwater by filling 126 lakes. However, with untreated water being released to the tanks, the project has had the opposite effect, threatening to damage agricultural crops and contaminate groundwater.

Bellandur and Varthur are the most polluted lakes in the city, with a committee of the National Green Tribunal describing them as “the biggest septic tank, with not a millilitre of clean water”. Though the expertise is available to convert sewage into drinking water, it appears that Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has employed obsolete technology, rendering the entire project futile. The BWSSB refutes the charge and insists that the water conforms to standards prescribed by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, but experts disagree. Well-known scientist T V Ramachandra of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, who checked the quality of the so-called treated water, has concluded that it was nothing but raw sewage, containing nitrate, phosphate and heavy metals. Noted environmentalist Y N Yellappa Reddy is on record that contaminated water will have a long-term impact on the people and ecology. This holds dangerous prospects for Bengaluru, too, as most of its supply of vegetables and milk come from Kolar and surrounding areas.

The BWSSB has proved that it is incompetent and incapable of executing this well-meaning project, which otherwise has the potential of converting dry Kolar into a green belt. The government should seriously consider involving private players who are willing to clean polluted lakes free of cost with the latest know-how, provided the state enters into a buy-back agreement to purchase by-products, like clean water, electricity and fertilisers. While the people of Bengaluru are pampered with drinking water being brought from 300 km away, those in Kolar are treated as second-class citizens. The districts neighbouring Bengaluru cannot become dumping grounds for the refuse generated by the city. Supplying poisoned water is a crime against humanity and this episode should be treated as one. Elected representatives from the district, especially senior leaders like Speaker Ramesh Kumar, will be failing in their duty if they do not ensure that the guilty officers are brought to book.

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