Bengaluru’s lakes have turned into showstoppers for reasons the city should be ashamed of. The two largest ones – Bellandur and Varthur – have, in the last 20 years, frothed, foamed and burst into flames, the result of relentlessly being forced to accommodate toxic chemicals and untreated sewage.
Today, experts from Britain and Israel visited Bellandur Lake, located in the south east part of the city, surrounded by high-rise buildings. In February, the lake, nearly 900 acres large, was covered with a fire, shooting streams of smoke into the sky and blinding drivers who pulled over to avoid accidents. The fire fighters summoned were amazed at the scale of the fire, which raged for nearly eight hours, on a body of water.
Bengaluru was rechristened India’s Silicon Valley when its outsourcing industry became a worldwide phenomenon. And yet, neither the highly skilled techies nor local government agencies have been able to develop a workable solution for the crisis of its lakes.
There is no sewage treatment plant at Bellandur. Experts say the regular deposits on untreated pollutants from factories and sewage from the apartments in the region has been catastrophic – but can be reversed.
The visitors today from UK and Israel were invited by the state government. “Quite clearly there is pollution in this lake caused by a lot of domestic run-off. As a result of this, the oxygen concentration in the lake has dropped. Biologically, it is dead on the surface, but you have lots of plant life, so there is potential there. We can treat the incoming waste water, get rid of the pollution, get rid of the oxygen load on the lake – and the lake will then clean itself up,” said Sam Morgan, who heads the water body purification company named Bluewater Bio Ltd. “It is a very straightforward solution – we just need the contracts in place and then we can move forward on this,” he said.
Like many other large cities including Delhi, a constraint in Bengaluru is that its administration is controlled by different, and often competing, local agencies.
CM Dhananjaya, Chairman of the Karnataka State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation, is coordinating the presentations being made by different firms to clean up the lake.
He said, “The Bellandur lake issue – it has to be solved within six months. At least smell and froth which is making international news.”
There is as yet no budget allocated for the mission.
Zibi Jamal of Whitefield Rising, a residents group, said of the Varthur Lake which will also be part of the cleaning contract, “Varthur now is stinking. Foam overflowing today even late evening. Conditions are worsening…this foam may fly into our faces.”
At the start of this month, weeks after Bellandur Lake’s fire made international headlines, The Guardian spoke to scientists in the city who warned that unchecked water pollution could leave Bengaluru uninhabitable by 2025. They pointed out that the city now has 194 lakes, down from 285 about three decades ago.