The latest fire at the Bellandur Lake, which took a full ten hours to douse, could have been caused by people smoking near the area.
Or so the Minister of State for Environment and Climate Change, Dr Mahesh Sharma, thinks.
Now, Bellandur Lake has been in the news for the last few years for all the wrong reasons – it is so polluted that it regularly catches fire.
So when Bharatiya Janata Party leader B Sriramulu asked in the Parliament on Friday what the state was doing to revive the lake, Mahesh Sharma gave his bizarre response.
“It has been observed that dense smoke was releasing from the grass with organic sludge (muck). Since long it is a common practice of grass cutting in the lake area by the neighbouring villagers to use it as a fodder for their cattle. In such time, while they smoke, there may be chances of accidental fire in the grass and this could be the reason for the accidental fire in Bellandur Lake,” Mahesh Sharma said in a written reply.
He, however, conceded that the fire could have also been due to the pollution in the lake.
He added that the state government has taken all preventive measures to address the issue of frothing in the lake at the waste weir points.
“Measures including fixing of wire net mesh to a height of 20 ft to prevent the air disbursal of froth all along waste weir length near Bellandur road crossing, ensuring that there is no froth in the lake anywhere and froth is occurring only at the waste weirs, dissipation of the froth by installing 106 numbers of water sprinklers on both sides of the waste weir banks at Bellandur to suppress the froth and the system is on round the clock, maintenance of the sprinkling system till the lake is cleaned up (one time cleaning) and restored/ rejuvenated, are being carried out,” he said.
He also said that the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has begun a project amounting to Rs 887.97 crore related to the sewerage system and sewage treatment plants in Bengaluru, which is being initiated under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) programme of the Ministry of Urban Development.
“Apart from other benefits, these projects will help in rejuvenating lakes in Bengaluru by reducing the pollution load being discharged into them. Further, this Ministry has provided financial assistance of Rs 2.63 crore (government of India share) for conservation and management of Bellandur Lake under the National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP)/National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-Systems (NPCA),” the Minister said.
“In addition, the State Government has released an amount of Rs 371 crore to Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) since 2013-14 to 2017-18 for rejuvenation/restoration of lakes in Bengaluru and as on February 2, 2018, the government has released an amount of Rs 50 crore to BDA for restoration Bellandur Lake. So far, BDA has incurred an expenditure of Rs 8 crore for restoration of this lake from its own funds,” the Mahesh Sharma’s reply reads.
He also debunked reports that experts from Britain and Israel have been invited by the state government to help rejuvenate the lake.