Divya Gandhi

Bangalore: The city’s 15,000-strong fishing community, whose livelihood is inextricably linked to lakes, has begun pooling in their resources to clean these water bodies now choking with sewage and weeds.

The apathy of five civic authorities and State departments that are custodians of these lakes has left the fishing cooperative societies with no choice but to spend between Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 4 lakh from their pockets to weed at least 10 lakes in the city. These include Hebbal, Kalkere, Doddabommasandra, Rachenahalli, Yelahanka, Jakkur, Varthur, Madiwala, Mallathahalli and Seegehalli lakes, according to officials in the Department of Fisheries.

Having recently seeded Hebbal lake with fish worth Rs. 1.3 lakh, Annamma, president of the 150-member Fisherwomen’s Fish Farming and Marketing Cooperative Society, is worried that the thick blanket of water hyacinth will smother them.

“We have spent Rs. 4 lakh in six weeks to clean part of the tank with excavators and daily-wage workers. There is no telling when the work will be done. The weeds just keep coming back.”

The Lake Development Authority, the custodian of Hebbal lake, had handed it over to the Oberoi Group for maintenance and development under a public-private partnership scheme in 2006.

Annamma’s society, in a good season, earns Rs. 50,000 a month from harvesting fish such as catla, rohu and mrigal. But this year she fears the worst.

“This is the season the fish seeds grow best and if we can’t tackle the weeds soon we will lose the entire batch,” she said. A total of 10 fishing cooperative societies in the city have been given fishing rights by the Fisheries Department on a five-year lease period.

Who is responsible?

Officials at the Lake Development Authority told The Hindu that as aquatic weeds indicate the presence of sewage, it is the responsibility of Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) to clear it.

“Barring Madiwala tank, none of the other nine lakes has sewage treatment plants. The plant at Madiwala, which has 4 MLD capacity is not enough,” said the official.

Anthony Raj, secretary of the Christa Fishermen Cooperative Society, cleaned a part of Madivala lake spending Rs. 85,000 six months ago. But the lake is again covered with water hyacinth and he may have to spend at least Rs. 2 lakh to clean it again, he said. The State Forest Department is the custodian of Madiwala lake.

The story is no different for Rudiraj, a lease-holder who operates at Doddabommasandra lake near Vidyaranyapura.

He had spent Rs. 1.5 lakh on excavators and labour to remove weeds recently, but his efforts were in vain.

“I introduced fish seeds last year but they still have not matured. The weeds and sewage have choked the lake and the fish can’t grow,” he said. Officials at Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the custodian of Doddabommasandra lake, said that the lake was recently handed over to them by the State Forest Department.