Rainfed Agara lake to get sewage treatment plant, residents unhappy

While experts and people's representatives are pushing for STP, residents are suggesting rainwater harvesting. The hurry with which the project is being pushed for a rainfed lake, when there is another lake nearby which receives untreated sewage, has caused suspicion.

Residents of HSR Layout and surroundings n Bengaluru objected to the construction of sewage treatment plant (STP) on Agara lake bed, proposed by Lake Development Authority and supported by the MLA of Bommanahalli, Satish Reddy. Agara lake is situated off Sarjapur Road, and is not a part of any lake chain.

A public meeting was conducted by Lake Development Authority (LDA) to inform people about their plan to rejuvenate Agara lake with treated water on the lines of Jakkur lake. However, the members of the Agara Lake Protection and Management Committee (ALPMC) were apprehensive about this plan.

The agenda of the meeting was supposed to be to collect suggestions from the people on the development of the lake. Simultaneously LDA also informed the Committee about the already appointed Technical Consultant for the preparation of the Detailed Project Report to revive the Agara lake. Bommanahalli MLA Satish Reddy and Environmentalist Dr. Yellappa Reddy were among those who presided over the meeting along with the BWSSB and LDA officers.

LDA, MLA present the plans

Nagaraju, the LDA Engineer, said that the plan was not yet ready but it is estimated that the project will cost approximately Rs. 2 crores. LDA will take into consideration the suggestions given by the people to build fences, benches, toilets and drinking water, along with LDA’s plan that includes building of a small park and setting up a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) of capacity of 3 Million Litres / Day (MLD) at a corner of the Agara lake.

MLA Satish Reddy told the LDA officers that he would provide extra funds from his MLA funds for the development of the Agara lake, if required.

Interestingly he also raised concern over contamination of  water in the Somasundarapalya lake, HSR Layout. He blamed Karnataka Compost Development Corporation for releasing leachate into the lake. He requested that a joint inspection be carried out by Lokayukta and High Court of Karnataka. However, he stated that he shall file a Public Interest Litigation for shifting the KCDC to another place.

Environmentalist Dr. Yellappa Reddy cited example of Jakkur lake that presently is being rejuvenated with grey water. He said that water from Jakkur lake is being used for non-potable and domestic purposes only. He said there are even hospitals that have installed STP and are making use of greywater for domestic purpose.

Public meeting organised to inform residents about an STP coming up on Agara lake premises. Pic: Nikita Malusare

Residents reluctant to have STP

G Jayakrishnan, a member of the Save Agara Lake Committee, objected to the idea of a 3 MLD STP plant, and suggested that the capacity of the already existing STP plant at Madiwala lake can be increased instead. However, he said it is a different story that it doesn’t work. He also asked what will the LDA do with the sludge coming out from the STP.

Yellappa Reddy refused to pay heed to any objections over the installation of STP. He said, “It is the High Court’s order to set up STP on the lake, no one can object to it. We conducted this meeting to inform you about it.”

‘Do not waste government money’

Jayakrishna contested that High Court has not told about building an STP on the lake, the order states that STP should be installed as per case to case basis wherever it is required. “Government should not waste money on installation of STPs where it is not needed,” he said, adding that operational cost of the STP per month is close to approximately Rs. 36,000/-.

He said he is not against the installation of STP, but it should be set up at an upstream from where water flows to all other lakes, in this case the Madiwala lake or other lakes that really need it.  He added that a proper plan to deal with the sludge that is formed after treating the sewage water. Agara lake is a rain-fed stand-alone lake with no upstream or downstream lake connected to it – it is not a part of any lake chain.

Talking to the press, Kavitha Reddy, a member of the Save Agara Lake Committee said that Madiwala lake has a capacity of only 4 MLD, however it receives sewage beyond its capacity – almost 25 MLD. She said that the machines do not even work in Madiwala STP. Workers complain of non-availability of electricity to run it. “Today sewage water is let into the lake as it is as a result it stinks,” she added.

Vested interests at play?

However, the residents question the need to push the installation of STP on the lake suddenly. Kavitha said, “We have been fighting for over a year and a half, but not even once we heard about the STP. Why do they want to push it so much suddenly?” She alleged that the government wants to rejuvenate the lake with excess water to provide borewell water for the mega SEZ project by Mantri Developers, coming on the other side of the lake.

In March, Citizen Matters had exposed the water requirement for the construction of 72 acres mega SEZ project on the wetland situated between two lakes Agara and Bellandur. During the course of investigation, it was found that once the project becomes functional it will require 4.5 MLD (Million Litres per Day) of water ie., around 135 Million Litres per month. As per BWSSB’s record for January 2013, Agaram ward and Koramangala ward where the project is located, receive 22 ML and 197 ML respectively per month. Residents had questioned about the source of water for such a huge project when BWSSB had no water.

When Citizen Matters spoke to Satish Reddy on why he did not provide funds to the rejuvenation of Somasundara Palya lake in HSR Layout which is smaller than Agara lake, he did not have clear answers. He said that the lake is under BDA which is supposed to rejuvenate the lake. Somasundara Palya lake has been suffering heavy encroachment and neither BDA, nor local Tahsildars or the BBMP have been able to stop the illegal dumping of construction debris at the lake by unknown miscreants.

‘Use rainwater to revive lake’

Kavitha strongly feels that the STP should be set up at the Somasundarapalya lake where sewage water is flowing directly without being treated. Agara lake is not conncected to any drainage and is purely rain-fed.

Residents of the HSR Layout strongly feel that Agara lake doesn’t need STP to increase the water level. A simple rainwater harvesting can do it. Citing the example of Kaikondanahalli lake where citizens have made use of RWH to rejuvenate it, members of the Save Agara Lake Committee said, “Give one year’s time to the lake after installing RWH. Do not allow sewage to enter the Agara lake. If the water level doesn’t increase, then we can think about installing the STP here.” However, Jayakrishna is positive that rainwater will be sufficient to rejuvenate the Agara lake as he had seen the lake overflowing in the past few days when the city received heavy showers.

Kavitha said that the Committee will write to the MLA to wait for at least an year and not to install STP on Agar lake. Instead they should build it near Somasundarapalya lake or increase the capacity of the STP built at Madiwala lake.

The Detailed Project Report will be ready within three months and will be submitted to the Government of Karnataka for approval.

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