The 14 marshals deployed to protect the lake have effectively managed to stop miscreants from dumping waste and setting it on fire several times over the last year.

Lake Marshals to the rescue Bellandur catches fire again flames doused in 30 minsPhotos by Sonali Singh
news Monday, December 31, 2018 - 15:08
Bengaluru’s Bellandur Lake, known for frothing, fuming and even going up in flames, caught fire again on Sunday afternoon. Alert marshals deployed to protect the lake rushed in to douse the flames. The fire had broken out in the lake’s buffer zone at around 4 pm on Sunday near the Iblur area. The marshals, who have been deployed to nab miscreants for dumping garbage and debris, noticed the fire.

By the time they reached the spot, the fire was spreading quickly. The marshals immediately alerted the fire safety department and two fire engines were deployed to douse the flames. “By the time the firefighters arrived, the fire had spread due to the dried weeds and leaves present there. It was almost going to touch the hutments located on the banks of the lake,” a lake marshal told TNM.

In a 30-minute operation, the fire was doused. Marshals say that this is the tenth time the lake has caught fire this year and the second time this month alone. In November this year, the marshals caught men dumping debris and setting it on fire. They stopped the miscreants and collected a fine too.

BDA's failure to do its bit

“The problem here is that the lake’s custodians have not fenced the area,” one of the marshals said, referring to the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA), which is the Bengaluru’s lakes’ custodian. 

The BDA was supposed put up a fence along the lake’s circumference to prevent illegal dumping and burning of construction waste and garbage. However, the BDA has managed to fence only the area of the lake facing the main road. This is in violation of the National Green Tribunal order from 2017, which had instructed the BDA to fence the lake immediately.

“As there is no fence on the other side of the lake, it is very easy for people to bring in construction waste and garbage and burn it. All of the fires which were witnessed this year were man-made. BDA should take responsibility and finish fencing the lake,” said Sonali Singh, a member of Save Bellandur Kere, a civic group.

In all the 10 instances that the lake caught fire this year, the marshals have been quick to act and have averted major fires. For instance, the lake caught fire in January this year near the Iblur side and it took the Army two days to douse the flames.

“In the beginning of this month, we stopped people from dumping two truckloads of construction debris. These kinds of things keep happening. Even today, people were caught dumping waste,” Sonali adds.

Marshals not given enough authority, resources

The marshals are only allowed to impose a fine on the miscreants. However, this does not seem to be an effective deterrent because attempts to dump more debris and waste and set it afire have been reported throughout the year.

“The marshals have not been given any authoritative powers. They catch the people who are violating the norms promptly but none of the other officials want to take any stringent action against the violators,” Sonali said.

It seems that even when the BDA does step in, it is not as strict with the offenders as mandated. Speaking to TNM, a BDA official said that two months ago, two men were caught trying to set debris on fire. They were fined with Rs 5,000 by the BBMP. However, according to the NGT order, violators must be charged with a fine of Rs 5 lakh.

“When a precedent of strict punishment is not set, then people will not think twice before destroying the lake. The lake’s custodians must not be lax in collecting fines,” urged Seema, a member of Bellandur Rising.

Another problem faced by the marshals is that the BDA has not provided them with any fire safety equipment. “If the marshals are given mobile fire-fighting equipment, then these fires can be handled easily. They will not have to wait for the fire engines to arrive. By the time the fire engines arrive, the fire would have spread quickly,” a marshal told TNM.

The marshals are also not given vehicles to conduct inspections; they survey the lake on foot. “There are 14 of us and the lake is huge. There has to be some action on behalf of the custodians for us to be able to do our jobs perfectly,” the marshal added.

 

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