The heavy rains that lashed Hyderabad for two days left Secunderabad residents facing a fresh round of woes as the RK Puram lake began to froth over once more. The pungent-smelling froth, bubbled up over the banks as water flowed from the lakes into a large sewage pipe, spilling onto nearby roads.
In a bid to find solutions, the United Federation of Residents Welfare Associations organised a meeting at Devinagar on Sunday morning, opposite the frothing drain.
The meeting was attended by K Sridevi, the GHMC Corporator for Neredmet Division, noted scientist and environmentalist Dr BV Subbarao, Superintendent Engineer Y Sekhar Reddy, PCB scientist Purushothom Reddy, and Dr Lubna Sarwath from Save our Urban Lakes (SOUL), among others.
Speaking at the event, Sridevi said that the GHMC was committed to restoring the lake, and promised to make up for any lapses on the municipal authority's side.
"We are ready to book cases and arrest those who violate the law and pollute the lake. If a citizen catches someone in the act, either via photos or videos, we will act on that," she said.
GHMC Deputy Commissioner, Malkajgiri Circle, Venu Gopal blamed the lakeās current condition on the dumping of untreated sewage into it.
Having just recently taken up the post, Venu Gopal conceded that mistakes had been made in the past, but added that they would be rectified. āPutting aside everything that happened in the past, we will strive to improve infrastructure. We will conduct awareness programmes, and ask people living in the slums near the lake, not to dump their waste in the water. We will also promote other measures, like segregation of dry and wet waste," he said.
He added, however, that the lake was being constantly monitored by officials, and that the frothing was not a cause for alarm. "We have studied the lake and formed a plan that will cost Rs 85 lakh, and will ensure maintenance and upkeep of the lake for three years," he said.
Satyanarayana Reddy, Member-Secretary of the Pollution Control Board (PCB) told the gathering that water samples tested by the PCB, had confirmed that it was domestic waste that had triggered the froth, and not industrial wastes.
"It started in Bangalore and has now come to Hyderabad. We must prepare a detailed action plan and work together. We will prosecute any violators we find, under the Environment Protection Act," he said.
He urged those present that there was a need for civil society members to be involved in solving the problem too. "There is indeed, no need to get alarmed. However, at the same time, we can't ignore the problem and allow it to get worse. We are all members of civil society first, and then professionals. The lake is our collective responsibility, and we should take steps to clean it," he added.
(The froth accumulated at a spot opposite the meeting on Sunday)
T Venkata Praseeda, a Deputy Engineer from the Irrigation Department said that the lake had shrunk to a size of just 50 acres due to encroachments over the years.
He also said that the state was framing a comprehensive development plan to restore the lake to its former glory.
Prominent local environmentalists also addressed the gathering, urging officials to not merely treat the symptom of frothing, but to also look at the cause of sewage flowing into the lake. Dr BV Subbarao, Adviser for the Centre for Climate Change blamed the delay in action on the lake on bureaucracy.
He said that the lake came under the jurisdiction of multiple authorities like the GHMC, the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA), the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB) and the Irrigation and Revenue Department.
Subbbarao also urged citizens not to wait for the government but to proactively find solutions themselves. "There are many scientific solutions that can be implemented by the citizens itself. There is no need to wait for the government or the PCB," he said.
"We must look at community-based solutions, and also introspect. With the pollution load constantly increasing, we must ask if the lake can bear it. Luckily, in this case, there are no industries involved, and it is a purely domestic issue," he added.
Dr Lubna Sarwath, one of the founding members of Save Our Urban Lakes (SOUL), suggested that there was a dire need to 'inventorise the solid and liquid waste following into the lake'.
"Authorities must also survey the inflow channels and open them up, to ensure that the lake can be used as a massive rainwater harvesting pit. More than technology, we want methodology," she said.
She added that sewage had to be properly treated and not merely redirected to a new location. "Diversion of the sewage is not a solution for pollution. Even though it is the method opted by officials, the sewage is still being diverted to another water body, or the Musi river. We must handle the waste at the source," she added.
She also appealed to authorities, not to build a walkway inside the Full Tank Level (FTL) of the lake in the name of 'beautification', as they had done with lakes like the Malkam Cheruvu and Kapra Cheruvu.
"The walkway decreases the area of a lake by at least five acres. It's a noose around any dying water body. The lake will be able to clean itself with rainfall, if it is allowed to spread out to its full capacity and pollution is decreased," she said.
Last week, a preliminary investigation by the PCB stated that the lake probably frothed over, due to sewage and animal waste allegedly being dumped in the water.
The PCB said that their analysis revealed organic matter in the water, and suspected that someone was dumping pig waste in the water.
On Saturday, the Neredmet police arrested one person from an illegal piggery in the area, which was involved in extracting oil from pig waste.
According to reports, a Special Operations Team raided the illegal unit at noon and found 320 oil cans. The police said that the residual matter of the pigs was being dumped into the lake.