Local residents decide to breach Bellandur lake

The water-level in the middle of the lake is 2.5 ft, while the silt below is up to 17.5 ft.

October 12, 2015 07:56 am | Updated 07:56 am IST - Bengaluru:

Fed up with the legal route for a cleaner Bellandur lake yielding no result, those staying around the lake have decided to “breach” the lake to drain it out completely.

An informal meeting on Sunday saw numerous organisations and residents – from Yemlur, Iblur and Bellandur areas – come together to chalk out a strategy to “awaken slumbering” civic bodies.

With the sight of spewing foam nearby and the putrid wafts emanating from the 800-acre lake, residents contemplated protests as well as the extreme step of breaking open the waste weir that would drain out the lake. Meetings would be held in Varthur, Yemlur and with residents of nearly 30 villages to garner support for taking such a step.

Among the options proposed was to coordinate the breaking of the weir at the lake, wherein, both Varthur and Bellandur lakes would simultaneously break the waste water weir – the drop of which, incidentally, creates the foam at Yemlur – to drain both the lakes.

There is a precedent to this, and K. Jagannath, former president of the Belandur Gram Panchayat, said in the mid-80s, Yemlur weir was breached to allow water to flow into Varthur lake that had dried up. “Bellandur lake has become the shit bowl of the city and it needs to be emptied. Village residents can use the silt as manure,” he said.

Based on the previous studies, the water-level in the centre of the lake was calculated at just 2.5 ft, while the silt and sludge below was estimated at 17.5 ft.

Though the foam at the Bellandur lake has made local, national and even international headlines, many residents said the issue is more than three decades old. “I have stayed here for 28 years now, and even when I was 5, I could see the foam in the lake,” said Monil J. Reddy, a resident, who said even minor fevers were aggravated due to the unbreathable air.

Decades-old struggle

The citizen’s fight for a clean Bellandur lake has been going on for decades and it culminated in a Public Interest Litigation plea in the Karnataka High Court against the “inaction” of the State government and civic bodies in the late 90s. In November 1999, the court directed the BWSSB to ensure that there was underground drainage in the area to stop sewage flowing into the lake. When this did not happen, activists and residents filed a contempt petition, which was referred to the Lok Adalat.

“Though the agencies were to submit a progress report frequently, it has become an eye-wash. They show drainage works around Madiwala or Puttenahalli lakes and claim that it is connected to purify Bellandur lake. Isn’t 17 years enough to clean Bellandur lake?” asked K. Jagannath, one of the petitioners.

‘BBMP put Bellandur 20 years back in time’

There was a time, nearly two decades ago, when Bellandur was associated with hi-tech governance. K. Jagannath, who was the gram panchayat president from 1994 for 10 years, said that in 1996, World Bank awarded the gram panchayat for its progress in using technology for governance. “The gram panchayat had its own website. Computers were installed in the gram panchayat office to process applications. It all happened much before e-governance became a buzzword,” he said.

In 2004, it was recognised again by the Union Government as the country’s best village panchayat and the year before its merger with the then Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, it won the Nirmal Grama Yojana award for its cleanliness in 2007.

“The merger with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has taken us 20 years back. Garbage is rarely cleared. In the gram sabha system, the money generated is invested for the development of the area. In BBMP, Bellandur area contributes lots of revenue, but we don’t see any development here,” said Mr. Jagannath, standing a few metres away from the frothing and putrid Bellandur lake.

Neighbouring gram panchayats show the way

While lakes within the city are dying a slow death, villages on the fringe are showing the way for revival of crucial water bodies. A kilometre from the polluted Bellandur lake is Halanayakahalli – a village on the fringes of the city towards Sarjapur.

Bengaluru’s urbanisation has led to encroachment of Halanayakahalli, Junisandra and Chikkanayakahalli lakes. However, citizens’ movements and the gram panchayat efforts are yielding results, says gram panchayat president J.C. Muniyagallu.

“Gram sabha resolutions there have seen encroachments of 24.8 acres of Junisandra lake being removed,” he said.

Similarly, the Halanayakahalli lake that was filled with water a decade ago has been rejuvenated, thanks to the efforts of the residents and panchat members who persistently followed up and ensured that the lake was revived.

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