Bengaluru

EMPRI bats for Belandur-Varthur lakes as hotspot

The State of Environment Report 2015 records the gradual fall from grace of the Belandur-Varthur lakes.

The State of Environment Report 2015 records the gradual fall from grace of the Belandur-Varthur lakes.   | Photo Credit: Handout E Mail

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The research institute also recommends formation of a citizen monitoring committee to oversee the ‘hotspot’

With froth spewing in its channels, and an unbearable stench emanating from its sewage-filled boundaries, it is hard to think of Belandur and Varthur lakes as once being a hotspot for flora and fauna.

However, the State of Environment Report 2015, prepared by EMPRI (Environmental Management & Policy Research Institute), has chosen the beleaguered lake series as an ‘environmental hotspot’. The research institute also bats for the formation of a citizen monitoring committee to oversee the ‘hotspot’.

The report records the gradual fall from grace for the lakes. Till the ’80s, Belandur lake was the lifeline for 18 villages, was used to cultivate paddy and vegetables, and sustained more than 400 fishing families; an annual ‘Theppotsava’ (boat festival) celebrated the lake; while, in the 1940s, even a sea plane channel was built.

“The once bountiful lake has gradually transformed into a sewage tank... There have been adverse environmental and public health consequences,” states the report.

Among the ways for rejuvenation is for the KIADB (Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board) to cancel its allotments between Agaram and Belandur lakes; and, formation of a six-member Citizen Lake Monitoring Committees chaired by a retired judge or environmental expert.

S. Vishwanath, water conservationist who has worked on the revival of lakes, says conferring the tag of an environment hotspot for the lakes is the right direction to go. “Having a tag keeps the attention of the city and stakeholders on the lake,” he said.

For Jagadish Reddy from Varthur Rising, a tag — on the lines of heritage or biodiversity hotspots — will ensure the lakes remain in the spotlight long after media scrutiny dies out. “Our eventual aim is to rein in ecological experts and get the Forest Department expertise in reviving flora and fauna around the lake. Works have to go beyond stopping of sewage. The report gives us a boost in this respect,” he said, adding that a citizen-led watchdog is important for the lakes where multiple agencies have been given the responsibility for rejuvenation.

Record rains helped a few lakes

The record monsoon rains may have left a trail of destruction in the city, but there is a slight silver lining as the lakes seem to be marginally in better health.

During the rains that ended in mid-October, multiple lakes has breached their bunds, and many reached full capacity after decades. Karnataka State Pollution Control Board’s measurement of lake pollution levels (measured in April before the monsoon and in November, after the monsoon), shows a marginal improvement only in 18 lakes out of 54 lakes measured within the city. However, these lakes went from the lowest E-grade (only for industrial purposes) to D-grade (for wildlife propagation).

Despite the record 1,650mm of rainfall in the calender year, nearly 54% of the measured lakes did not register an improvement in the water quality. On the contrary, Parappana Agrahara lake recorded a decrease in water quality.

In contrast, the average rains of 2016, where the city got less than half the rains seen through 2017, seven lakes had seen an improvement in water quality while more than three-fourths of the lakes saw no improvement at all.

“None of the lakes have a system to store fresh rainwater instead of allowing it to mix with sewage. If the lakes had been drained, sluice gates erected and storm water drains cleared of sewage in the weeks before the rains, they would have stored cleaner water,” said Ramprasad from Friends of Lake, an informal collective of citizens looking at the protection of lakes in the city.

Similarly, S. Vishwanath, water conservationist, said it wasn’t a good sign that even rains could not dilute the immense quantities of sewage that continue to enter our lakes.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 11:48:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/empri-bats-for-belandur-varthur-lakes-as-hotspot/article22444777.ece

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