Bengaluru: 495 apartments told to pay Rs 291 crore fine over sewage

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BENGALURU: Over the past two months, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) slapped notices on 495 apartments in BBMP’s Mahadevapura zone, imposing a fine of Rs 291 crore as ‘environmental compensation’ charges for violating prescribed standards in treating sewage discharge. With KSPCB threatening to take action if the fines aren’t paid within 15 days of receipt of notice and officials talking of disconnecting water supply, the apartments, a few of which have been fined several crores of rupees, are crying foul.

Members of the affected apartment associations said KSPCB issued multiple notices to them between December 2019 and January 2020, seeking Rs 5,000 to Rs 3 crore as environmental compensation charges. TOI accessed several of these notices, a majority of which were issued to apartments in Bellandur and Whitefield.

The KSPCB notice to Brigade Metropolis in Mahadevapura read: “As per the analysis report, the parameters viz., chemical oxygen demand, total nitrogen and fecal coliform are not meeting the stipulated standards (sic).” Brigade Metropolis has been directed to pay Rs 5,735 as sample collection and analysis charges.

CBR Akriti apartment in Hoodi Circle was slapped a fine of Rs 3 crore for not having a sewage treatment plant (STP). Residents of the apartment, in their reply to KSPCB, however, stated, “Our apartment was constructed before 2016 and is validly connected to the underground sewage network (UGD) which is operated by the BWSSB.”
According to Bangalore Sewerage (Amendment) Regulations, 2018, buildings constructed prior to January 19, 2016 and connected to BWSSB underground drainage network are exempt from setting up STPs, unless they have violated provisions related to environment impact assessment.

Members of KSPCB, however, said penal action was being taken in pursuance of a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order of December 2019 to prevent discharge of pollutants into Bellandur, Agara and Varthur lakes.

The NGT order, however, said if works related to setting up of STPs and laying of sewerage network aren’t completed before September 20, 2020, Rs 10 lakh compensation will be levied on erring PCB officers, while from February 1, 2020, apartments discharging sewage/effluents into lakes will be required to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh per month.

Residents of apartments that have been slapped with steep fines, meanwhile, pointed out that KSPCB collected water samples without their knowledge. They say KSPCB started harassing them by issuing multiple notices without having collected a ‘legal sample’.

HA Nagaraja Rao, president, Bangalore Apartments’ Federation, said KSPCB recently started issuing notices to many apartments across Bengaluru, claiming they had taken treated water samples many months ago.

“They then purportedly created reports, which state the samples aren’t compliant with prevailing norms. We wonder how these reports came to be, when samples weren’t even collected in quite a few cases,” Rao maintained.

He pointed out that apartments themselves were engaging a certified lab to test the quality of STP-treated water.