Treated water aplenty, not a drop for parks…

With the onset of summer, many of the parks in the city have dried up. Most parks maintained by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) were using up water from the bore wells on their premises. But over the last few months, many borewells have been drying up.

Wipro Park in Koramangala has been drying up. Pic: Navya P K

Parvathi Srirama, Joint Secretary of Koramangala 4th block RWA, says that compared to December, there is much water shortage now in parks. Parvathi, also a ward committee member of Koramangala, is in charge of monitoring parks in the area. Swabhiman Fountain Park, one of the well-maintained parks here, is also facing water shortage now. "For now there is water, but we have requested BBMP to build an overhead tank in the park. When there is shortage, we can buy tanker water and store it in the tank; there are RWA members willing to pay for such water," she says.

Where RWAs are active, water might be managed this way, but many other parks are simply drying up. According to the BBMP’s Horticulture Department, 386 parks are facing water shortage now. 152 of these are expected to go dry this month. There are 955 parks overall in the city. The highest number of parks are in South zone, where also the highest number of parks – 64 – are going to dry up in April. In East zone, there are 177 parks, of which 127 are facing shortage already, and 24 are expected to go dry this month.

The BBMP has decided that it will set up only tree parks from now on, and do away with landscaped parks which consume a lot of water. But what about existing parks which have been developed and maintained so far at a high cost? Watering one acre of park area alone requires about 81,000 litres of water per day.

No takers for treated water

Citizen Matters asked if the BBMP can use treated water from BWSSB’s Tertiary Treatment Plants (TTPs) for watering parks. Currently, BWSSB’s TTPs are producing treated water in excess. TTPs treat water to a high degree than the usual STPs (Sewage Treatment Plants). TTP water is non-potable, but can be used for gardening, industrial purposes etc. The original idea behind setting up the TTPs was to sell treated water to industries, and thus conserve water.

But there has been not enough demand for treated water, and the BWSSB is now letting out excess treated water back into a lake. However, the BBMP says that it has not yet considered the option of using TTP water in parks.

Brijesh Kumar, BBMP Chief Conservator of Forests, says that the cost of transporting water from TTP to parks using tankers will be high. He says that this option can be considered if the condition of parks gets worse. Of BWSSB’s four TTPs, the biggest is the Vrishabhavathi Valley (V Valley) TTP located near Rajarajeshwari Arch, along Mysore Road. This TTP has the capacity to treat 60 MLD water.

Currently, only 20 MLD water is being treated here. Out of that, 2.5 MLD is being sold to Arvind Mills, NICE Ltd etc. All the remaining 17.5 MLD is released back into the Byramangala lake, says V C Kumar, BWSSB Executive Engineer in charge of waste water treatment. He adds that this will make the groundwater table get recharged with better quality water. However, the actual purpose of setting up the TTP – to conserve water by reusing it – is not served.

The treated water is priced very low. While the cost of regular water is Rs 66 per kilo litre, that of TTP water is less than one-fourth of this – Rs 15 per kilo litre. However, V C Kumar says that the treatment plant is too far off for most industries, and hence transportation cost is high, which is a major reason for lack of demand for treated water.

V C Kumar opines that using TTP water is a good option for the BBMP. "If the BBMP uses a 6000 litre water tanker, they can get that water at a cost of Rs 90. There are no other options for water now."

The plants and lawn in this Koramangala park are dying because of water shortage. Pic: Navya P K

Brijesh Kumar of the BBMP says, "Supply lines to parks cannot be laid temporarily criss-crossing the existing supply lines; tankers are expensive. Monitoring the quality of treated water is also difficult." He says that even if use of tankers is considered, it will take time to discuss costs and work out logistics. There are many parks closer to the V Valley TTP. But so far, the BBMP has not estimated the cost of using TTP water.

Y N Ashwath, Chairman of the BBMP’s Horticulture Standing Committee, confirms that use of TTP water for gardening has not been considered yet. "Nothing can be done now; the only option is to wait for rains."

The BBMP parks are maintained by contractors at a fixed cost of Rs 3 lakh per acre annually. This package is uniform, and there is no separate estimate for water. "When borewells go dry, we cannot force the contractor to get water from elsewhere as the cost of this would be high," says Brijesh Kumar.

TTP water is already used by the two major parks in the city – Cubbon Park and Lalbagh. These parks have their own TTPs – each with a capacity of 1.5 MLD. V C Kumar says that the plants generate enough for the parks’ needs, and no excess water is generated.

The BWSSB has a fourth TTP in Yelahanka. Like the V Valley TTP, this plant is also not working to its full capacity. The capacity of Yelahanka TTP is 10 MLD, but only 6 MLD is processed. This is because, there is not enough water supply in Yelahanka, and hence not enough sewage is generated. The treated water is sold completely though, to organisations like BIAL (Bangalore International Airport Ltd).

There are also residential apartments that have excess treated water as many of them are mandated to set up STPs. Brijesh Kumar says that buying water from apartments is risky, as there is no way to monitor water quality. "If we buy this water, the cost of quality enforcement will be more than that of the water. Park is a public utility, and we cannot take chances. We cannot post a person daily in each park to monitor water quality," he says.

For now, it looks like parks may wither for some more time before they are hopefully saved by the rains.

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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.

1 Comment

  1. There are a number of Apt. complexes, who indeed reuse treated water in their toilet flushes : These high rise complexes perforce have excess treated water which they currently dishcarge into storm drains. The BBMP parks can certainly source water from such complexes. If it is good enough for use in toilets, it is certainly good enough for use in irrigation. Excuses of “Quality enforcement etc.” are just that – Excuses.

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