Help! Someone else’s sewage in our pipes

Residents of Elita Promenade, an apartment complex in JP Nagar 7th phase, are a worried lot. Elita has a strange problem – a sewage pipeline runs within the apartment’s compound, but it carries sewage not from the complex, but from other layouts.

The raw sewage flows in to the pipeline located along the compound wall and finally joins Jaraganahalli (Sarakki) lake located behind the complex. The sewage is from Uma Sanjeevini apartment and Guru Raghavendra Layout located next to Elita complex, outside its compound wall. The apartment however has its own Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) to process its sewage.

Sewage from Uma Sanjeevini layout enters the open drain in Elita Promenade. Pic: Navya P K

Elita residents complain that the line was laid without their knowledge. In addition to the threat of action by government for polluting the lake, they are concerned about health issues. "Since the line goes through our compound we may be held responsible," says Nagendran, a resident and an IT professional.

According to the Raghavendra layout residents, the pipeline arrangement to carry sewage from outside was made in 2005. The builder had encroached a rajakaluve (arterial storm water drain for Bangalore) which was running across the site marked for Elita. This cut off the sewage paths of the layout’s residents.

Raghavendra layout residents claim that they complained to the then Bommanahalli CMC Commissioner Udayshankar, who then ordered the compound wall to be demolished. "After this the builder said they would build a pipeline within their compound and we could connect our sewage pipes to it," says M S Nadakatti, former Secretary of Raghavendra Layout RWA. Nadakatti however adds that this was only verbal agreement. Citizen Matters has the pictures of the demolition provided by Nadakatti.

Elita’s compound wall being demolished in 2005 for encroaching rajakaluve. Pic Credit M S Nadakkatti

"After this the builder said they would build a pipeline within their compound and we could connect our sewage pipes to it," says Nadakatti. "There was a proposal to let our sewage be treated in their STP, but they said it would require more government permissions for higher capacity STP, and we dropped that proposal." Residents pooled together about Rs 4 lakh to build proper channels and connect them to the Elita line.The RWA is now disbanded due to lack of participation.

In Elita compound, sewage from Raghavendra Layout enters a closed pipeline, while that from Uma Sanjeevini apartment directly enters a storm water drain running along the compound. The sewage in this drain is visible. About 50 houses in Raghavendra layout are using this pipeline, says M M Green, former RWA President.

The builder for Elita Promanade is Keppel Land – a Singapore-based company – in partnership with Puravankara Builders. Keppel Land hasmajority share in the project and construction was entirely done by them. The apartment residents noticed the pipeline only recently as the line passes near the newly constructed B block. Nandakumar, a B block resident says that he noticed the pipeline about six months ago. For now, the builder is in charge of the complex as its construction is not yet complete and no apartment owners association has been formed. "The builder may be here for another year or so, but after that it will become our responsibility," he says. Keppel Land could not be reached for comment.

While the residents are worried about action from Pollution Board, sewage disposal into the lake is not a new phenomenon in this area. Being a new BBMP area, most of the houses do not have (Under Ground Drains) UGDs here. Most layouts were also not BDA-approved and are awaiting regularisation.

Sewage from the pipeline in Elita complex entering Jaraganahalli lake. Pic: Navya P K

The nearly 69-acre lake, has been receiving sewage from the entire area for years. It is almost entirely covered by weed, emanates foul stench and causes mosquito menace.

What government agencies say:
BWSSB acknowledges that there are no proper sewage systems in the area. A few years ago BWSSB had laid a main sewage line from Chunchghatta, which enters the lake itself.

This line carries sewage from Chunchghatta, and many small layouts nearby. Even the BDA-approved RBI layout’s sewage line (also built by BWSSB) connects to this main line. RBI Layout’s line itself is used by Eswara layout, a part of Raghavendra layout etc.

"It is an open secret here that BWSSB lines and other sewage go into the lake. No action was taken so far. Most builders of layouts want to utilise entire space and don’t leave any space for making sewage pits, so residents are left with no option," says Jagdish, President of Federation of JP Nagar 7th and 8th phase RWAs. There are 43 layouts under the association.

Lake Development Authority (LDA) is aware of the situation. LDA’s CEO U V Singh says, "there is no other option for the residents in that area. They cannot let the sewage be in their premises, so we allow it."

Will the lake get some respite?

Jaraganahalli is one of the two lakes that LDA is supposed to develop, according to High Court’s directions in a PIL filed by the NGO Environment Support Group (ESG). According to this, LDA is supposed to complete rejuvenation of lake by 2014, but LDA has not formed an action plan yet. It says nothing can be done until sewage flow is stopped.

The nearly 69-acre Sarakki lake is covered with weeds. Elita Promenade in the backgroud. Pic: Navya P K

"We are co-ordinating with BWSSB on this. In the last meeting held about four months ago, BWSSB said that the works will start soon," says Singh.

BWSSB Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) Mohammed Arief, who is in-charge of the UGD project, says that work will start in another month. "Contract has been given already. Konankunte, Puttenahalli, Jaraganahalli wards etc will be covered under this package. It is part of the larger project for setting up UGD in entire Bommanahalli zone at the cost of Rs 300 cr. It will be complete in two years," he says.

With this, 90% of sewage entry into Jaraganahalli lake can be stopped, says Arief. Singh agrees. "Sewage enters the lake mainly from this area; once it is stopped, cleaning the lake will be simple and cheap," he says. Currently LDA cleans area around the lake once in a while, but de-weeding is not done.

The last time LDA had cleaned up the lake was about 5-6 years ago, with funds from centre under the NLCP (National Lake Conservation Project). More than Rs 2 crore was spent to clean the lake at the time, but it became completely ineffective as sewage entry was not stopped. Only the fence that was built at that time remains now.

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About Navya P K 317 Articles
Navya has 12 years of experience in journalism, covering development, urban governance and environment. She was earlier Senior Journalist, Citizen Matters, and Reporter, The New Indian Express. She has also freelanced for publications such as The News Minute, Factor Daily and India Together. Navya won the All India Environment Journalism Award, 2013, for her investigative series on the environmental violations of an upcoming SEZ in Bengaluru, published in Citizen Matters. She also won the PII-UNICEF fellowship in 2016 to report on child rights in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Navya has an MA in Political Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, and a PG Diploma from the Asian College of Journalism.