According to a study carried by the Indian Institute of Sciences, 98% of the lakes in Bangalore have been encroached upon and 90% have been polluted. This has led to the disappearance of around 35% of the lake coverage since the year 1960 and the main reason for this is inefficient sewage treatment.
Once called the “City of Lakes”, Banglore used to have a lot of water reservoirs because the city does not have any direct rivers feeding it. With the rise in population and the demand for land, the lakes have been targeted to fulfill these demands. Long-time residents of the city recollect when lakes like Bellandur and Ulsoor were picnic spots but are now filled with garbage and sewage.
A resident of Banglore, Ashok C.G. says, “Our town planning and city planning does not have a clear mandate to conserve any of these natural water bodies. I think earlier there was a park here, but now the condition has gone from bad to worse.”
The Chief Engineer, BBMP lakes, BT Mohan Krishna says that they are trying their best to prevent any sort of encroachment and are doing whatever they can to preserve the lakes.
He says, “The major problem is the encroachment and the stopping of sewage inflow. In our actions we do not have a provision to deal with encroachments directly, we are depending on the government because the land ownership vests with the government, they have to initiate the action of removal of lake encroachment and as far as sewage diversion is concerned there is a strict guideline from the NGT, that the BWSSB should tap all the sewage and treat it before it enters the lake. The NGT is monitoring it closely and they have been given the timeline to complete this.
In regards to the water quality going down, I agree that the water quality is going down, but still, the water can be used for other purposes like washing and agriculture. We are diverting the sewage to other lanes and only stormwater drains enter the lakes.”
He has also said that they have been fencing and desilting the lakes. According to an article 78 lakes have been fenced out of 128 lakes.
Last year, BBMP wanted companies to invest 317 crores in the rejuvenation of lakes. The Chief Engineer has said that there will be a round table conference with all the CSR heads soon.
The actions taken by the BBMP this year to rejuvenate 10 lakes have raised a lot of questions in the scientific community.
Dr. T.V. Ramachandran, Professor at Centre for Ecological Sciences, says that “The lakes are getting polluted because of fragmented governance leading to a loss of livelihood.
BBMP rejuvenated 45 lakes in Banglore; 87% of the lakes are in a really bad state. This is because they have not rejuvenated the lakes according to the scientific protocol. A scientific protocol has asked for decontaminating the lake and also arresting sewage and inflow of industrial effluent in the lake and stopping the encroachment. Once they have removed 20-25% of the silt the rest 75% still remain which is contaminated. They have not stopped the sewage inflow.
A lot of money has got into this but no result is to be seen, in fact, some of the lakes have gone worse.”
He goes on to explain how even if the water is used for agricultural purposes are a threat to health.
He says that the increase in kidney failure and cancer cases is a reminder about the deterioration in the environment. He further adds, “The sewage water is filled with toxic chemicals and heavy metals. They enter our body leading to problems like cancer and kidney failure. Around 10 years ago, there used to be a time when kidney cases used to come in one in 1 lakh people but now the situation has changed to one in 5 thousand. Because of this, the needs of the dialysis unit have increased. If my estimate is right ten in the near future, every household will have to have one dialysis unit and this is a very serious problem.”
When asked as to how the authorities can make the situation better, he says that there have to be stringent laws for the maintenance and development of the lakes. He also says that people should also actively take part in maintaining their lakes as he has seen that whenever people have taken the initiative the net result has been much better.
This miscommunication between the officials and the scientists could one day remove all the lakes that we have in the city once and for all, but there is the responsibility of the people to stop this from happening.