Foam River – The death of the VrishabhavatiApril 23, 2011
If you want to see unusual and breathtaking sights and are saturated with the conventional spots in the city of Bangalore you are invited to travel to Byramangala Tank. Motor down Mysore road swing lift at the Bidadi Industrial area where the Toyota Plant is located and go about 8 kilo-metres. You will arrive at the tank bund of Byramangala. Walk on the bund about a kilometre and you will come to a sluice gate discharging waters for irrigation. You will see a sight to behold. A river of foam may seem pretty unusual for a river but it is nothing special for the Vrishabhavati, perhaps the only perennial tributary of the Cauvery. Locals prefer to call it the Vishabhavati – poison river.
The sorry tale of the Vrishabhavati begins reputedly near the Kadu Mallesha temple, where a spring is believed to be its origin. In 1940 a huge reservoir was built some 30 kilometres from Bangalore and was called the Byramanagala Tank. This irrigated hundreds of Acres of land with the fresh water of the Vrishbhavati. Slowly things changed. The city grew and uncollected and untreated sewage started entering the stream. Now anywhere between 400 million litres to 500 million litres per day of sewage flows in the river. Detergent use in the city has increased and industrial effluents have been illegally disposed into the stream. Alkalinity causes the river water to froth and that can be seen in abundance at Byramangala.
The city is a killer of its water bodies. All tanks are polluted, the groundwater is polluted and the rivers surrounding it have been sucked dry or have become perennial with sewage. The Ponnaiyar like the Vrishbhavati also receives sewage and occasionally causes Cholera downstream when unwitting villagers consume its waters.
For now the foam river provides water for irrigation. Coconut, chikoo and vegetables are grown here. The water rich in nutrients provides for a lush crop. Farmers have realised the ‘power’ of the waters and use it judiciously. The groundwater however is contaminated and drinking water is in short supply.
The dark ecological shadow cast by our cities need to be addressed and sustainable ways of managing sewage flows found. Treatment plants at decentralised levels should ensure that both water and nutrients are recovered. Citizens will need to pay the true cost of water i.e. the price at which water is released to nature at the same quality at which it was appropriated.
The question is, is our civilization up-to its responsibility or are we to leave a legacy of destruction? On Earth Day it is time to ponder and also time to act.