Snow white foam spilled into the streets of India's tech center late last month, but the cause of the fluffy substance was far from clean.
According to the Times of India, the foam, which apparently had a strong stink, coming out of Varthur Lake in Bengaluru, also known as Bangalore, was the result of sewage. The Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board though countered that it was caused by detergents.
"Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board cannot shirk its duty of treating sewage. It releases raw sewage directly into the lake," Neha Senthil, a nearby resident, told the Times of India.
Indian pedestrians cover their noses as they cross a bridge over a frothing canal, which once carried water from Bellandur Lake to Varthur Lake, in east Bangalore on May 1, 2015. The innocuous-looking foam, which from a distance, looks like snow is nothing but toxic effluent caused by the polluted sewage water overflowing from nearby Bellandur Lake. (MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A paper about the presence of foaming bacteria in sewage explained how the "occurrence of biological foams in activated sludge plants has been reported globally for over 40 years." The organisms that feed on the organic waste, creating the foam, are "actually fulfilling a treatment role in that they are breaking down and consuming fats, oils and greases," the paper said. But sometimes, these bacteria become out of control and produce a whole lot of foam.
In Bangalore, the issue is that the foam represents the presence of raw sewage well outside of a proper treatment plant. The sewage is not only smelly and unsightly but it comes with a risk to public health as well with fecal matter having the ability to transmit disease, parasites and bacteria that can cause illness.
The foam is a result of the water in the lake having high content of ammonia and phosphate and very low dissolved oxygen. Sewage from many parts of the Bangalore is released into the lake, leaving it extremely polluted. The foam spilled onto Varthur Main Road, causing a traffic pile up recently besides spreading unbearable stench in the air for about three kilometre stretch near the Whitefield, which houses several IT companies at it Softare Technology Parks of India. (MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
"It is as filthy as it gets," Elan Kulandaivelu, an entrepreneur, told NDTV. "And this in an area that is one of the largest revenue generators in the country, the Whitefield Industrial Area."
Watch NDTV's report about the foaming incident, which the Hindustan Times reported is one of several occurrences in the last few years:
Sushmita Sengupta with the Center for Science and Environment told the New Indian Express there are environmental laws in place meant to prevent such treatment of a waterway, but he said the "rules do not have teeth."
"If a wetland is overlooked by the state government, there is no mechanism except going to court," Sengupta told the news website, which noted that CSE developed draft regulation that could help protect inland bodies of water.
TV Ramachandra, a professor at the Indian Institute of Science told NDTV that phosphates from sewage are "causing the froth and shows how we are misusing this non-renewable resource."