The Bellandur lake in Bengaluru has been on fire for more than ten hours, but the fire department has been unable to douse the fire.
More than four huge columns of fire could be seen in the evening, even as 50 firefighters and 12 fire engines were on the job.
On Friday, the water on the Yemlur side of the Bellandur lake was up in flames, and by evening, the fire had spread to other parts of the lake.
Officials at the Sarjapur Fire Station refused to divulge further information, apart from saying that the “situation is serious”.
According to a statement by the Bangalore Development Commissioner, other than state fire department personnel, BDA officials and defence officials were part of the fire-dousing exercise.
Dr Vasanti Kumara, Joint Commissioner of BBMP Mahadevapura zone said that the presence of grass has escalated the flames.
“The fire is raging now. We are on the job, has not led to anything. Situation is extremely grim. Wind directions changing too. But there is no reason to panic,” firemen at the spot said.
At 3pm, Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority Seema Garg told TNM that the situation was under control. But that was evidently incorrect as by 8.00 pm the fire was still spreading.
Meenakshi, a resident of Bellandur with whom TNM spoke to earlier in the day said, “The fire has only increased and spread to the other parts. With the lights out, it’s even more clear.”
Another Bellandur resident, Diana, said, ”Even when the lake caught fire last time, the fire was put out within two hours. But this is really going on for too long.”
A scientist, Priyanka Jamwa, at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bengaluru who does regular studies on the city’s lakes indicated that untreated sewage is the culprit.
“According to samples collected from both inlets and outlets of the lake, we have found that levels of dissolved oxygen were either very low or almost nil. Due to the anaerobic condition, flammable gases like methane are coming off the lake which could be one of the reasons that the fire is still on,” Priyanka told TNM.
“High concentration of organic material in the lake due to lack of rainfall in recent days can make the situation worse,” she added.
Speaking to TNM, Sridhar Pabbisetty, who is part of the expert committee formed by the state government to solve the Bellandur issue, said they believed the government in the last 14 months has spent close to Rs 3.5 crore, money that the expert committee had approved as one-time spending.
“The BDA can actually tell us how much money has been spent. As far as the expert committee is concerned, we had approved a one-time expense of Rs 3.5 crore for removal of water hyacinth and encroachments," he said.
The periodic removal of water hyacinth has also not been done, he said.
How has the money been put to use?
Sridhar said, “First of all, the government has failed to remove all encroachments and put a fence around the lake. In 14 months, the government has failed to take total physical possession of the lake.”
He added that the continuous inflow of sewage into the lake has to be stopped. “At least 400 MLD of sewage flows into the lake,” he said.
“Third is the inflow of industrial effluents. The same orange flames were visible last time. We still don't have comprehensive reports from the KSPCB to show the nature of flames and ashes that are coming out of the fire,” he said, calling for a proper forensic analysis to determine the cause of the fire.
“It has been so many hours and the fire is still not out. it is not a desert that we are talking about", he added.