When Bengalureans think of heavily polluted lakes in the city, the ones that come to mind are Bellandur and Varthur lakes. These two have been in the news for foaming and even catching fire sometimes.
But here is a lake, which has been polluted with chemical effluents for years and no one has taken cognizance of it.
Located in a marshland amidst industrial units in Peenya Phase 4 is the Narasappanahalli Lake. The once beautiful lake surrounded by wetlands has now been severely polluted with industrial effluents and chemicals.
To add to this horror, the marshland surrounding the lake has been encroached upon by industries. Not so surprisingly, none of the civic agencies have bothered to take note of the problem or even visit the spot and take action against the violators.
According to Ramprasad of Friends of Lakes, when a few volunteers visited the spot two years ago, they had realised that the fence surrounding the lake had been removed and mud was dumped on the eastern bank to make room for a small slum area.
â€śThis was not an artificial fence. We are talking about hundreds of eucalyptus trees, which had formed a natural fence for the lake. We could not see a single one. The lakeâ€™s buffer zone is being used to dump industrial waste,â€ť Ramprasad added.
Now, the lake has cadmium, zinc, cyanide, acid, phosphorus from the soap factory and all sorts of chemicals which come from the industrial area. There are paint factories, galvanising units, chrome plating factories and around 400 other factories which have been discharging effluents for years now, says Pramod Baliga, owner of Sagittarius Metals Private Limited, which is located in the same area.
â€śFive months ago, around 200 loads of mud were dumped on the lakeâ€™s wetland area. We did not realise what was happening but now, it looks like they are building some sort of a road. Recently, a drainpipe has also been connected to the lake and sewage is also flowing in. We have been complaining to the pollution control board, but nothing has happened till now,â€ť Pramod added.
He says that the issue has not come to the fore, as there are not many residents living in this area. â€śSince the past two years, the condition of the lake has worsened. All kinds of chemicals are being released and burnt,â€ť he said.
Besides, the Bengaluru Development Authority and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike have been passing the buck on who is the lakeâ€™s custodian.
Why are the civic agencies refusing to take responsibility?
This is not the first time that the BDA and the Palike have blamed each other and refused to take it up.
The issue dates back to 2010. In that year, the Karnataka government had ordered the BDA to hand over all the lakes to the Palike. However, in 2011, the government ordered the BBMP to hand over the responsibility of taking care of the lakes to the BDA.
In 2016, the state government, again, made BBMP the custodian of all of Bengaluruâ€™s lakes. However, the Palike had stated that it does not have enough funds and asked the BDA to be the custodian of 66 lakes in Bengaluru.
The Palike had stated that the BDA had been collecting lake cess from citizens for years and asked the agency to show them where that money had gone.
â€śNone of the lakes were cleaned up. So where did the lake cess go? If the BDA, like it has claimed, has not used the money, which amounts to around Rs 300 crore, why canâ€™t they take up the responsibility of caring for the lakes. If BDA does not want to do it, it should at least release the funds accumulated as lake cess so that we can take over the responsibility,â€ť said a senior official with the BBMP.
Nagaraju, Superintendent of Lakes, BDA, said that the Narasappanahalli Lake was transferred to BBMP on September 14, 2016. â€śG.O number 449 mentions that the BBMP is the lakeâ€™s custodian. Now the BBMP has submitted the list of the 66 lakes to its council, which still has not taken any decision regarding the lakes,â€ť Nagaraju added.
Vidhasagar Rao, Chief Executive Officer of the Karnataka State Lake Development Authority said that a team will be sent to inspect the spot and that the agency would get in touch with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board as well.
â€śIf people have complained for two years now about the pollution, then action must have been taken by the KSPBC. We will look into the matter,â€ť he added.
The civic agencies alleged that they knew nothing about the pollution in Narasappanahalli Lake, when TNM contacted them for answers.
The KSPBC Chairman, Laxman, was unavailable for comment despite several attempts to contact him.
According to Ramprasad, the level of pollution in the lake is so high and toxic that the only solution is the setting up of an effluent treatment plant (ETP).
"Normally the pollution caused in lakes is because of sewage and garbage but these are toxic chemicals and can only be purified in an ETP. The cost of setting one up is six times more than and that of a sewage treatment plant (STP). The pollution control board has not yet bothered to inspect the spot and obviously the civic agencies are passing the buck as they don't want to spend so much money on one lake," he added.