A road on a lake is as bizarre as a lake catching fire. But both these phenomena occur in Bengaluru. On May 31, the commission appointed by the National Green Tribunal had lambasted authorities for the dreadful state of the Bellandur Lake terming it the city’s “largest septic tank”.
In its report, the commission has made many more startling revelations about the Varthur Lake too, calling it an “aggravated calamity”.
“Varthur Lake is no better, in fact worse than Bellandur Lake in almost every aspect from fire to froth and from sewage to stink. Varthur is an aggravated calamity by the sheer volume of filth that is dumped in it without any ecological sensitivity,” the commission’s report said.
During the inquiry commission’s visit to Varthur Lake, it observed that a wide road had been constructed on the lake bed and within the boundary. “The Commission observed a horrific sight. A road, admeasuring 370 m in length, with a width ranging from 12.20 m to 32.07 m and a depth of 3.93 m was constructed. A total of 10142.92 cubic meter of soil has been deposited to make the road. It was constructed by dumping thousands of tons of construction debris,” the report states.
The road was constructed by the Minor Irrigation Department for “an ostensible reason of laying a pipeline,” the report noted. In June 2016, the Minor Irrigation Department allotted Rs 13.4 crore for pumping 400 MLD of secondary treated water from the lake.
The work was supposed to commence after obtaining environment and other statutory clearances. However, there was no Detailed Project Report drafted for this alleged pipeline.
“The Commission was informed that the said road has been laid for the purpose of laying the pipeline and that the dumped earth would be removed once the pipeline has been laid as decided in a meeting held on September 20, 2017 by the Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department,” the report adds.
To the commission’s dismay, it found that the road laid by the Minor Irrigation Department was on an already existing road where 10142. 92 cubic meters of soil had been dumped. The soil was from other excavation sites.
No scientific methods of laying the pipeline were considered.
As much as 10142.92 cubic meters of construction debris, weighing 16,228 tonnes, was dumped on the lake bed.
The commission estimated that it would have required 1,803 truckloads of debris, with each truck carrying 9 tonnes per trip.
The commission also noted that the Chief Engineer of the Minor Irrigation Department deliberately avoided giving complete and correct information on the road.
The Minor Irrigation Department failed to consult and seek the consent of the concerned authorities, including the Bengaluru Development Authority, the Lake Development Authority and others.
No plan was submitted as to whether and how the debris dumped would be disposed upon completion of the pipeline project.
“The Commission has not even an iota of doubt in holding with regard to the construction of the said road that the integrity and ecology of the Varthur Lake has been seriously compromised. That the allegation of the nexus with land mafia and builders is prima facie justified. An appropriate independent enquiry needs to be instituted to unravel the guilt of the officers involved in this catastrophe,” the commission noted.
Based on the appalling condition of the lake, the commission made several recommendation to help revive the lake, as it concluded that the “present environmental disaster is nothing short of an environmental emergency”.
“Admittedly, currently approximately 183 MLD, if not more, of untreated sewage is being discharged into the lake. Consequently, it is of utmost importance that the under construction and planned STPs are commissioned on a war footing. The Commission is of the view that there is no proper justification on the part of the authorities not to expedite the completion of the STPs. The authorities (BWSSB, BDA and KSPCB) must mobilise all available resources to ensure that the STPs are commissioned as expeditiously as possible preferably by March 2019 or within such time as this Hon’ble Tribunal may deem fit,” the report adds.
The commission also recommended a cap on the amount of phosphorous used to make soaps and detergents and called for a legislation in this regard.
It also recommended that the STPs that are being set up and those which have already been set up must provide for treating phosphorous and nitrogen nutrients. Besides, it proposed that all existing and new industries, commercial establishments, apartments, townships and institutions within the catchment area of the lakes must be made Zero Discharge.
Complete fencing of the lake area, including the buffer zone, to prevent any illegal encroachments was also recommended.
“CCTVs must be installed at appropriate locations for ensuring that no construction debris is dumped in the buffer zone area of the lake. Security guards should be deployed at the most vulnerable locations to keep vigil on illegal dumping of debris and to prevent encroachment activities,” it added.
The estimated 480 MLD of sewage flowing from Varthur Lake finally ends up in the Dakshina Pinakini River, a tributary of river Cauvery. Hence, the commission recommended a distillation process to treat the water before it joins the river.