Fiery Friday: Bengaluru's Bellandur Lake catches fire for the first time in 2018

At 3pm, the CEO of Karnataka Lake Development Authority Seema Garg told TNM, "There is no need to panic. The majority of the fire has been doused by fire department officials. Now the fire is under control."
Fiery Friday: Bengaluru's Bellandur Lake catches fire for the first time in 2018
Fiery Friday: Bengaluru's Bellandur Lake catches fire for the first time in 2018

In any other part of this world, it would have been a shocker, but not anymore for the residents of Bengaluru.

The infamous Bellandur Lake caught fire yet again on Friday.

Residents on the Yemlur side of Bellandur spotted smoke on Friday morning, as the lake full of sewage, chemical effluents and construction debris went up in flames.

Meenakshi who resides in Orchid Lake View apartment complex, said, “Thick black smoke was seen around 10.00 am from the lakebed."

Another resident of the area, Shalini told TNM, "The fire is going on for at least three hours now. The fire is spreading quickly and now we can see yellow and orange flames." 

A study by the Karnataka Lake Development Authority, nodal authority of lakes and tanks in the state had said that Bellandur Lake is the largest of the 262 lakes and tanks in Bengaluru. It receives about 40% of the city's sewage.

The CEO of  Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority Seema Garg, however, told TNM, "There is no need to panic. The majority of the fire has been doused by fire department officials. Now the fire is under control. Officials of the KLCDA are there on the spot."

Explaining the cause of the fire, Seema said, "It is the grass that was being burnt by some locals that had resulted in the fire in the lake. They had put the fire to get fresh crop to feed their cattle. Some areas which are away from the waterbody is still burning. They are making every effort to douse the fire. Once summer comes the grass becomes dry and people burn the grass to harvest new growth, this is a common practice in forest areas also."

According to Fire Department officials, a fire engine had left at 12:06 pm to address the situation.

The lake has caught fire several times in the past, including in May 2015 and August 2016, when froth caught fire due to formation of flammable methane gas.

After the lake had caught fire on February 16, 2017—  it had got the attention of national and international media.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the incident, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) came down heavily on the civic agencies including BBMP, BDA, BWSSB, Karnataka State Lake Development Authority and the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board for failing on their part to clean up the lake.  

“It is the only lake development authority in the world which is causing fire in the lakes,” the National Green Tribunal had said, referring to the Karnataka Lake Development and Conservation Authority(KLCDA) in April, 2017 while hearing the case.

Incidentally, on Thursday, the state Lokayukta set a time frame to the civic agencies in Bengaluru responsible for the upkeep of the lakes to remove encroachment after Irrigation officials agreed on record that all lakes had been encroached upon and polluted.

The Lokayukta himself is set to personally inspect all the lakes in the city later this month.

However, Bellandur is not the only lake to catch fire in Bengaluru, even the Varthur lake caught fire in May, 2017 after some garbage was set on fire.

Attacking the ruling Congress, Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar said, "This reminds us again what CM SIddaramaiah has done for Bengaluru in the last five years. On one hand you have all these water bodies, other very important elements of governance and on the other hand, we have 80,000 crores being spent on  ridiculous projects like pods and steel flyovers. It is a shame but this reflects the neglect the city is going through."  

What causes the lake to catch fire?

In February 2017, when the lake caught fire, BBMP officials had said that toxic materials accumulated in the lake may have caused it.

Puzzled by the spontaneous combustion, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board’s regional authorities had then inspected the site and found that the methane build-up on the surface of the lake had led to the fire.

The froth had formed due to chemical deposits from detergents and cleaners and lead to the formation of highly combustible methane gas, they said.

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