Friday 16 November 2012

The waste river water of Bangalore

It was once a serene river flowing across many localities of Bangalore. Till the 1970s, the river was a source of livelihood for hundreds of Bangaloreans and also a  place for  river water swimming and lazing around.
The Vrishabhbavathi, as it was known, was a small stream that meandered around the city of Bangalore. It had its origin in the small hillock near the Dodda Ganapathi Temple on Bull Temple Road in Basavanagudi.
All this changed when several industries and business establishments came  up on the banks of the Vrishabhavati. In just a matter of months the river lost its pristine quality and turned into a “ mori” which in Kannada means a drain.
The pollutants from industries were  not the only reason for the river to die. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) connected all the sewer lines to the river.
Today, while motoring down the Mysore road, you can see a frothing mass of water. This is not the drain as is commonly believed but the Vrishibhavathi river.
The river runs parallel to Mysore road for several kilometers. It flows near the Gali Anjeneya after touching areas like Guddadahalli, Bapujinagar and  RR Nagar. Near Kengeri, locals call it Kengeri Mori as the water here is totally filthy and unfit even for fishes and marine life.
Eve today, people living around Mysore Road and near Rajarajesharinagar recall how the river carried pure water and watered the coconut grooves. The river water also provided us with vegetables and fruits of the local variety.
This river was a small yet vital tributary of the Arkavathy. The irony is that both the tributary and the river are in dire straits. If the tributary has virtually died up, the Arkavathy is in the process of drying up. 
The priests of the Gali Anjeneya Temple on Mysore Road and Shiva Temple in Kengeri will tell you that till the mid 1970s they used the river water daily for religious purposes. But no longer. The Vrishabhavathi at the Gali Anjeneya Temple is filthy and at the Shiva Temple it is unpotable.
Apart from this river, even the Arkavathy now carried the bulk of the City’s garbage and waste. In the early years of Bangalore (in 1922) , it had a sewerage system covering 215 kms and this was separated from the riverine system. Thus, waste water never mingled with the river water. This changed with Independence.
First the civic authority and next the BWSSB effectively killed the tanks and then targeted the river system. They permitted effluents and sewage to flow into the rivers, tanks and water bodies, polluting them to such an extent that even marine life died.
The Vrishabhavathi became a sewage river, tanks dried up, other water bodies were breached and tank bunds and catchments areas were encroached upon and construction allowed. Naturally, the water bodies became septic and the Vrishabhavathi became nothing more than a huge cesspool.   
Experts are puzzled at the lack of planning by the City fathers in protecting the water bodies. They say Bangalore north is on a flat terrain except for  the Doddabettahalli ridge which is the highest point. This ridge runs north-north east-South-south west and Doddabettahalli is 1062 metres high.
Bangalore south has more of an undulating terrain with hills and valleys. It is in one of the small hills here that the Vrishabhavathi takes birth.
The Arkavathy and Vrishabhavathi rivers were interconnected to the many lakes and tanks of Bangalore from the time of Kempe Gowda. If one tank overflowed, the water would percolate to the other. Thus, there was no flooding till a few decades ago.
The river today is a potential carrier of epidemic and villagers downstream have complained of  diseases and health hazard arising out of acute pollution and filthy water.
Residents of Byramangala, Chowkalli and Gopalli have complained of  health related diseases and studies by several scientific and academic institutions have pinpointed the polluted Vrishabhavathi as the reason.
Even the waters of the wells and borewells around the course of the river are highly polluted. Studies conducted by many research institutions have identified water from the lake as well as open and bore wells in the area as non-potable, with high levels of fecal coliforms making them unfit for human consumption or even for use by animals or in agriculture
The civil engineering department, EPCET, Bangalore, has conducted a recent study called  ‘Hydrochemical assessment of the pollutants in groundwaters of Vrishabhavathi Valley Basin in Bangalore (India)”. The study was conducted by Shankar B S, Balasubramanya N and Reddy M T.
M Jiban Singh and others of Department of Environmental Science, Bangalore University, have conducted a study on the  “Bacteriological assessment of groundwater in Arkavathi and Vrishabhavathi basins”.
Researchers at the University of  Agriculture Sciences (UAS)
Have studied the effect of the river called “'Economic and Environmental Implications of Groundwater Degradation in Vrishabhavathi River Basin.”
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB)
and the BWSSB have done research on the river and its problems. A copy of the report may be seen with the Lok Adalat which  is housed in the Karnataka High Court.   


  1. I had no idea that Bangalore once had a river flowing through it. Keep up the good work.

  2. very informative.

  3. Can you please share the details that are in the court. Like the case number ..etc... is there anything that we can do towards this...

  4. Is there any further reading you would recommend on this?

    Waste Water Services

  5. Can we do something.
    Changing one River,

    Dear brothers.

    Can we make an example of changing one River.

    I am the 10th person. (Comments)

    Sir. Am with you. Please share your thoughts. So that we can. Start the change and get our River back

  6. Guys, I am from Basavanagudi (where Vrishabhavathi starts or used to alteast). I will shortly be starting a website for the river rejuvenation similar to the project being done for Kumudvathi river (another bangalore river from north bangalore). Once the website is up we can start some concrete actions.

  7. The river was already irretrievably ruined in mid 1970s through mindless abuse, by allowing industrial as well as domestic effluents to flow into it. Surprisingly, however, no one has come forward with any concrete, feasible plan for its revival. Even now, if the river could be rid of the filth allowed into it, it could regain its pristine qualities. It is certainly worth the trouble. If like-minded people could come together, the task appears achievable.