When it rains in the Indian city of Bangalore, it foams. While this phenomenon may lend itself to pretty pictures and entertaining videos, at its core it is an extreme example of pollution gone amuck.
Bangalore, also known as Bangaluru, is a major Indian city. It is the capital of the state of Karnataka, and has a population of over eight million. Nicknamed the "Silicon Valley of India" it is a major tech hub that has grown rapidly over the last few decades. Now this rapid growth is literally overflowing at least two of the city's lakes in the form of a frothy foam. The froth creates rivers of pollution along the lake that can be hard to circumnavigate for many residents.
As the BBC recently reported, the largest lake in the city, Bellandur Lake, at nearly 1.5 square miles, has become a cesspool of chemicals and sewage. The situation has become so dire that the lake now foams up into a snowy froth when it rains. Earlier this year, it even caught fire. Debasish Ghosh, an IT professional who's been documenting the foam outbursts, said the foams emits an "unbearable smell."
While authorities are aware of the situation, they have been extremely slow to react. As Indian media have reported, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board insist that a primary cause of the pollution and foaming in the lake is household detergents. Experts and residents are unconvinced.
Sushmita Sengupta, Deputy Programme Manager at Centre for Science and Environment told The News Minute earlier this year that “a major component of untreated sewage is urine and faecal matter which comprises phosphates, ammonia and nitrates that result in foaming."
According to The News Minute, "exponential rates" of expansion and urbanization have made it difficult for authorities to keep up with the city's sewage problem, with around 70% of untreated sewage directly discharged into lakes.
After the latest froth-up, one nearby resident said that "every time it rains and the water flows, the froth raises and navigating this stretch becomes risky. Due to the froth, visibility is reduced and the area also smells bad.”
The KSPCB released a statement saying that “a lot of sewage, chemicals and detergents are flowing into the lake. Because of this froth gets formed." The statement also said that stakeholders are coming up with an action plan.
The urgency that residents feel is necessary to resolve the situation quickly is not being reflected by those in charge, and a petition calling for action on Change.org was recently created. Addressed to the Karnataka Minister for Forests, Ecology and Environment, it says "if this is not fixed immediately, Bangalore’s biggest lake will go on to become India's biggest biohazard."
It goes on to state that the unregulated pollution being dumped into the lake includes "industrial and even biomedical waste," and that "people living in the neighborhood are falling sick."
According to the local Deccan Herald, officials have designated the first week of October as the deadline to find a short-term solution to the frothing. This solution will need to hold up for several years until a new sewage treatment plant begins operating, which will serve as a "permanent measure to curb the frothing menace."