Waste segregation units crop up on banks of Vrishabhavathi again

The Vrishabhavathi river, which had a brief respite from industrial pollutants during the lockdown, is again under threat from “illegal” and “unauthorised” waste segregation units that have allegedly cropped up along its banks.

Residents of Kambipura in Kumbalgodu gram panchayat said despite managing to get a few such units shut down a couple of months ago, small waste segregation units came up again in March. These units allegedly burn waste in the night and also dump waste along the banks of the river.

Narahari Rao, a resident of Kambipura, said that there was a large unit in the vicinity and that they fought hard to get it shut last year. “Now, several small units have come up. They have taken advantage of the COVID-19 situation, as every issue other than the pandemic has taken a back seat. They burn waste in the night. They generally do it on alternate days, or once in three days,” he said.

Apart from burning and dumping various kinds of waste, Mr. Rao also said that of late, even meat waste was being dumped near a gomala in the vicinity.

Medical waste too

Nikhil Tiwari, another resident, said that the burning of plastic and industrial waste had caused allergy to many, and sometimes even led to breathing problems. “What is also a cause of worry for us is that they are burning medical waste, including urine bags and syringes. This will definitely have a negative impact on our health, especially on children and elders,” he said.

Residents said that they were promised a dry waste management centre by the panchayat but that has not materialised. “If there is a dry waste management centre here, many such problems will be solved,” said a resident.

When The Hindu spoke to Chikkaraju, president of Kumbalgodu Gram Panchayat, he said that he was not aware of the small units that have mushroomed recently.

“If residents bring it to the notice of the panchayat, we will take action against the culprits as per law. Last time, we were instrumental in closing one such unit with the help of the police, the residents and other related departments,” he said.


Brief respite

The river had enjoyed a brief respite as low industrial waste water inputs had “enhanced the self-assimilation capacity” of the stream with a decrease in Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) levels at certain locations during the lockdown, according to a water quality survey by Priyanka Jamwal Ghosh, fellow, Water and Soil Lab at ATREE Centre for Environment and Development.

According to Ms. Ghosh, at locations like Kengeri STP, there was a significant reduction in BOD and COD levels. “The waste water treatment plant located upstream has also contributed to the improved water quality,” she said.

Though there has been decrease in the inflow of industrial effluents, high Fecal Coliforms (FC) levels in the inflows and outflows of the Byranmangala tank, a reservoir designed to store water along the Vrishabhavathi, suggests inputs from domestic sewage during the lockdown period. “BOD and COD levels in the inflows to Byranmangala tank suggest pollution load inputs from domestic sources,” the survey states.

Ms. Ghosh said that they collected samples from five locations on the stream during the lockdown period and compared them with the data on samples collected from the same locations in March and April of 2015-16.

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Sagar Biswas

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