Spot the lake here if you can...
BANGALORE: For families staying near the Arekere lake in Hulimavu, clean water is a rare, precious commodity. Here groups of 10 to 12 families share water from one well each. While seepage from the highly-polluted Arekere lake has caused water in the wells to be polluted, residents are left with no other option but to use it. Raw sewage and effluents from the nearby garment factory make their way into Arekere lake, which is almost completely covered with water hyacinth, an indication of reduced oxygen content due to pollution.
“Well water is unfit for consumption. We use it only for ablution, washing clothes and dishes. In the common borewell, water comes only once a week. Otherwise, we rely on private tankers for water supply,” says Amjad, a resident in the area. However, private water supply is not affordable to many families here.
“Even borewell water is not clean. There is high incidence of fever, allergy and respiratory problems among people. But it has become so routine that no one complains anymore,” says another resident Mohan Gupta. The stench from the lake is unbearable during rains and mosquitoes which breed in the open drains and the lake also contribute to diseases.
The case is not unique to Arekere lake.
People residing near many lakes in the city, such as Singasandra, Chikkabegur and Bellandur lakes, face similar problems and the poor people are the worst-affected. Advocate S Vasudev, counsel for the PIL demanding potable water supply in areas surrounding Bellandur lake, says, “Builders of new apartments pay crores of rupees for unrestricted water supply while local residents are deprived.” When contacted, Public Relations Officer of BWSSB A N Prahlada Rao said, “Until two to three years back, water was provided to apartments that paid nearly Rs 80 lakh for laying of water connection pipelines.
But due to supply constraints, new apartments would not have the option. Water supply problems are higher in areas that are newly added to the BBMP. Borewells are being dug in these areas from the last three to four months. By 2012, 500 MLD of Cauvery water will be available, which can solve water shortage problems.” However, in reply to a PIL filed by Bellandur gram panchayat, the High Court had in 1999 ordered immediate measures to supply potable water to residents in Bellandur, clean all lakes in the city and to channelise sewage to the treatment plants. Following the authorities’ lack of compliance to the HC directives, another petition on contempt of court was filed. It is still pending before the Lok Adalat.
The sewage treatment plants (STPs) around Bellandur now have a capacity of 248 MLD, which is insufficient to handle sewage from the area. “The BWSSB has spent nearly Rs 185 lakh to divert sewage to the treatment plant, without much respite.
While sewage is accumulating in the lake, it’s impossible to clean it,” says C S Vedant, Chief Executive Officer, Lake Development Authority (LDA).
Pollution in lakes also assume larger dimensions, threatening livelihoods. “The vegetation in areas surrounding Bellandur lake were damaged due to pollution. The vegetables taste different and are no longer accepted in the market. Agricultural activities have come to a standstill and farmers are suffering silently,” says Advocate Vasudev. The fishing community is also affected as the fish have died in many lakes.
Another problem plaguing residents is flooding during rains. The leakage of a drain connecting to Arekere lake has led to lake water flowing out into the residential areas. “We had complained about the issue many times and efforts were made to stop the leak. But as water flows in great force, temporary measures do not work,” says a resident in the area. Now many houses here are surrounded by water during all seasons.
Lack of proper drainage system worsens the situation.
LDA officials flatly blame encroachments for outflow from lakes. “People encroach outflow channels, making them narrow.
During rains, water gushes out causing flooding. BDA and BBMP should take initiative to demolish illegal structures,” says Vedant. He cites interlinking of lakes as a key cause for pollution. “In Bangalore, all lakes are interlinked, due to which pollutants from one lake will be carried to another during rains. There is lack of funds from the state government and it takes nearly five years after a proposal is submitted for any project to take off,” he adds.
Ever since LDA’s constitution in 2002, three lakes - Vengaiahnakere, Nagavarakere and Jaraganahallikere - were rejuvenated.
Whether masterplans are chalked out or not, the lives of many still hang in the balance.