‘Majority of polluters go unpunished’

Participants during a meeting between KSPCB officials, NGOs and activists on the state of lakes in Bengaluru on Wednesday.— Photo : Sudhakara Jain  

When residents, activists and environmentalists got together to discuss the issue of lakes with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) on Wednesday, one question was a recurring theme: has the board been effective in enforcing its powers.

The answer came from KSPCB Chairman Lakshman, who admitted to a failure by the board over three decades to implement the vast powers of criminal prosecution given to it by the Karnataka Water Rules (1976) and Karnataka Air Rules (1983). Of the nearly 650 cases filed by the Board, barely 25 have end in conviction.

“This just shows that the majority of cases went against us. Clearly, the officers had not filed or pursued cases comprehensively,” said Mr. Lakshman at the meeting, which saw lake activists vent their ire against inefficient government agencies.

The laxities were also pointed out by an expert committee from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, who had sought a detailed report from the KSPCB. With little information of unauthorised industries or violations of buffer zones of lakes, Mr. Lakshman said four officers were being deployed to flag down these illegalities. “We will also map the valley zones to find out encroachments or non-functioning STPs,” he said.

Ward committees

Among the most persistent grouses raised at the meeting was the non-functioning of lake watchdog committees, which had been mandated by the Karnataka High Court to hear litigations on lakes.

One citizen claimed that he was thrown out from a committee meeting for filing a complaint against a KSPCB board member while another said it was ‘politicians’ who sat in these committees. Another said the Challakere lake committee had not met in over 1.5 years.

KSPCB has promised to introduce transparency into the process of selection of committees and their meetings.

Testing of the murky waters of the Ulsoor lake – where thousands of fish floated up dead on Monday – has shown that the dissolved oxygen level was 10 times lesser than what is required to support aquatic life.

Priyanka Jamwal, a researcher at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), tested the water at six points of the lake at various times in the morning. At the outlet of the lake, the dissolved oxygen was found to be just 0.3 mg per litre while the minimum required to support aquatic life is 4 mg per litre.

The highest recorded DO level was at the outlet of the filtration tank, at just 1.5 mg/l. .

Close to the inlets and at the filtration tank in the northern side of the lake, the oxygen levels were 0. “There is no Sewage Treatment Plant. The simple filtration tank was made assuming that the two inlets would carry only rainwater. But only sewage is coming in,” she said. The sewage contains large amounts of nitrates, ammonia and phosphates. Coupled with a temperature rise, the dissolved oxygen level crashed, she says.

“KSPCB monitors lakes in the afternoon, when DO is at the highest. Our studies in Jakkur have shown that in the afternoon, with algal blooms giving out oxygen, the DO content can be more than three times higher than in the morning,” she said.

Assurances given by KSPCB, BWSSB

Four officers deployed to identify points of pollution, sewage flow

Increased vigilance against polluting industries

Information on Lake Watchdog Committees and their meetings to be put up online

BWSSB to replace leaky UGD pipes

Assures treatment of 90 per cent of sewage inflow into Bellandur lake

Laxities were pointed out by committee

of Ministry of Environment and Forests

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 1:49:06 AM |

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