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What Is Feeding The Fire At Bengaluru's Bellandur Lake?

While studies have been conducted to measure biological and chemical parameters of lake, nothing of that sort been done for the inflows to the lake

What Is Feeding The Fire At Bengaluru's Bellandur Lake?
| Anirudh Kumar
What Is Feeding The Fire At Bengaluru's Bellandur Lake?
outlookindia.com
2017-05-07T14:25:30+05:30

The largest, Bellandur Lake, is known to the public for its intermittent appearances on national television, with images highlighting its remarkable ability to self-combust.  The lake first grabbed headlines in May of 2015, when yellowish flames arose from the toxic froth that had accumulated in the lake.

Just last month, the fire from the lake again claimed headlines across Karnataka; it’s not ‘news’ anymore for the national media. A white froth, which envelops large areas of the lake, gives the impression of a moving land mass covered in snow.  This occurrence is said to be mainly due to improper sewage and household waste disposal at the site.  In April, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) held a meeting where they warned the Karnataka government of repercussions, if the discharge of untreated sewage into the lake is not stopped immediately.

The main focus seems to be on the lake itself, and how to prevent sewage disposal into the lake. While studies have been conducted to measure biological and chemical parameters of lake, nothing of that sort been done for the inflows as yet.  Bellandur Lake has 17 inflows, out of which the four major inflows, carrying sewage water comes from Koramangala, Agaram, Challaghatta and Iblur as shown here.

Rural settlements along these inflows have been severely affected by the relentless disposal of domestic waste and untreated sewage.

Two months ago, a team (including the author) headed to Srinivagillu in Koramanagala to collect water samples as a part of an on-going research project on the water quality of the inflows leading to Bellandur Lake.

In Srinivagillu (Coordinates- 12.929322, 77.641925) lies a rural settlement, away from posh-Koramangala . This particular settlement is close to 8 kilometres from the lake.

We chose to collect the water samples from the flowing stream passing through this settlement. The stench of the water body made it impossible for us to stick around for long. The locals though, would have have gotten accustomed to this smell.

As the water was collected in plastic bottles, it came as no surprise; it was black in colour and looked like a cola bottle. After collecting water samples, we started taking pictures of the site. Suddenly we were met by kids from the area running around us. They started playing along the banks of the water stream, picking up rocks and throwing it at each other. This came as a shock, not because of what they were doing, but where.

We were then approached by an older man. An auto-driver by day, he would return after a long day’s work to this desolate place he called home. “Are you from the government”, he asked, looking at the cameras in our hands. He went on to say how this area has been neglected for so long and how their complaints had fallen on deaf ears. He had hope that we were there to help and get him out of his current predicament.

Upon realizing otherwise, his face fell. Nevertheless, he continued, and asked us if we could talk to the authorities or bring about some change on our own. His main priority was the safety of the kids, who lacked access to even basic sanitation, which was made worse as the waste material carried by the waters from far away ends up collecting near their homes.

He talked about how the kids in the area would play near the waters, against the advice of the elders in the settlement. Since they do not go to school, they have nothing better to do all day. On asking why they don’t attend school, he said how the school was too far away and the parents could not afford their time or money to provide transport to these kids. These ‘’playgrounds” were all that these kids had, to kill time.

He then told us to go and see a lake, just about two hundred metres from where these kids played. Our curiosity soon turned to disgust. The “lake” was a small, green-coloured water body, emanating a revolting odour.

Minute, green, air bubbles covered the entire lake. We kept walking along the boundaries, looking for the source of the smell, until we realized that it was hiding in plain-sight.

The cow had been dumped into this lake, after it had probably died. Authorities were either oblivious to this, or just chose to look the other way.

Perhaps, the key to solving the crisis at Bellandur Lake would be to first ensure proper treatment of inflows entering the lake. It is these waters that flow into the lake, carrying ‘water’ from 15 or more kilometres away. These waters carry all kinds of domestic waste and untreated sewage along with it.

Not only would this improve the water quality of the lake, but also the lives of the poor, who rely on this water in their day to day lives. Maybe one day, the kids living in this small part of Srinivagillu, can live in a cleaner world. Till then, all they have is hope, and a dangerous playground.

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