Bengaluru

Hulimavu lake breach: Were government engineers supervising the work of contractor?

Breach was reportedly the result of a contractor tampering with the tank

The city has seen three lake breaches over the last two months: Doddabidarakallu lake in October, which was attributed to heavy rainfall; Hosakerehalli lake in early November and Hulimavu lake on Sunday. The breach at Hosakerehalli and Hulimavu lakes were reportedly the result of contractors tampering with the tank.

With 800 houses inundated and over 1,000 people affected, residents, lake conservation activists and experts are livid at contractors being allowed to tamper with bunds without any supervision by engineers of the civic body.

V. Ramprasad, convenor, Friends of Lakes, said, “This is a blatant failure of supervision. It’s not just the contractor who has to be held accountable, but also the local engineers.”

Tank bunds and weirs (barriers) are key flood management instruments. The Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority Act, 2014 explicitly prohibits any tampering of bunds.

However, this puts agencies like the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in a Catch-22 situation. Most of Bengaluru’s lakes have only overflow weirs, leaving agencies no option but to tamper with the tank bund to let out water when required.

The BBMP, which is all set to get custody of a majority of lakes, has proposed installing sluice gates at outlets. The gates will allow water to be released from the tank without the need to tamper with the bund.

“Any tampering of bunds or weirs in a live system needs careful evaluation of water-flow patterns and pressure,” said Prof. M.S. Mohan Kumar, Department of Civil Engineering, IISc., Bengaluru. “Sluice gates can help, but they need to be designed carefully and its handling in a live situation has to be well thought out and well informed,” he said.

Contractor yet to be identified

Initial investigations by the police revealed that the breach of Hulimavu lake bund was man-made, but agencies are blaming each other for the contractor’s actions.

A JCB operator allegedly breached the bund to let water out. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) are blaming each other for the breach.

The Hulimavu police questioned both BWSSB and BBMP engineers. “We are trying to ascertain the sequence of events and the identity of the contractor,” said Isha Pant, DCP (South East), Bengaluru.

Senior BBMP officials said their lake department had not given any work order for the lake yet and, hence, the contractor who breached the bund was not working for them.

“BWSSB has been working on a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) upstream at the other end of the weir and the contractor concerned is suspected of causing the breach,” a senior BBMP official said.

Tushar Girinath, Chairman, BWSSB, said the STP work is almost complete and the plant will be operational in December. “We have no need to tamper water levels in the lake at this stage. We are cooperating with the police,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 7:27:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/hulimavu-lake-breach-were-government-engineers-supervising-the-work-of-contractor/article30078728.ece

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