Big Idea

Partners in grime

Sewage treatment plants that mimic nature could heal our lakes, stop deaths in poorly aired sewage systems and save us money

RA Chandroo

Tharun Kumar calls himself a techie. The fast-talking gentleman has some eclectic interests: cyber technology and social entrepreneurship. Between 1990 and 2013, he worked in the tech space in Bengaluru with the likes of Motorola, Cable & Wireless, Hughes Communications, Sutherland and Aujas Networks.

Between 2013 and late 2017, he served as executive director at Paradigm Environmental Strategies and it’s during this stint that he met his partners in slime: Simar Kohli Das, E Muralidharan, and Praseed KK. He is now an entrepreneur and co-founder at ECOSTP.

Cess pool

Located on the eastern outskirts of Bengaluru, Varthur Lake was once beautiful and home to many fish and birds. However, it’s now infamous for catching fire because of all the sewage dumped into it. The lake is close to Kumar’s residence in Whitefield, a popular locality in the Garden City.

Instances of the lake catching fire began in May 2013. Although an absolute stranger to the world of sewage treatment, the issue struck deep with Kumar. He claims, “There are 13 million people living in this city. When they flush, nearly half of their waste reaches the city’s lakes.”

Kumar has statistics to back his worry too. “According to the Pollution Control Board of India, out of the 29,129 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage generated, only 6,190 MLD is treated. Interestingly, this is a global problem. As per the United Nations, about 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged into the environment without adequate treatment.”

John Kuruvilla Chief mentor, Brigade REAPThe problem barely ends there. John Kuruvilla, chief mentor at Brigade Group’s Real Estate Accelerator Program (REAP), explains, “Current sewage treatment plants (STPs) are running on diesel power. They use a lot of chemicals, the sewage is difficult to handle, and crucially, it’s fatal to its operators.”

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