‘Pleading with officials had no impact’

NGT’s glare on Varthur, Agara lakes comes as a shot in the arm for worried residents

Updated - January 30, 2018 06:26 pm IST

Published - January 29, 2018 10:14 pm IST

 Two earth-movers levelling mud that had been dumped on the periphery of Varthur lake at Thubarahalli in April 2017.

Two earth-movers levelling mud that had been dumped on the periphery of Varthur lake at Thubarahalli in April 2017.

The widening of the net of scrutiny by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to include the severely-polluted Varthur lake has come as a shot in the arm to residents who have been battling bureaucracy in their efforts to rejuvenate the lake.

On Monday, the NGT directed the State government to provide action plans for the 450-acre Varthur lake downstream of Bellandur as well as Agara lake, up stream of Bellandur.

While rejuvenation work on the 95-acre Agara lake, undertaken by Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority at a cost of more than ₹16 crore is nearing completion and has been filled to the brim with relatively-green water after the intense rains of 2017, Varthur lake remains in utter neglect.

“None of our petitions, agitations and discussions with officials had an impact on the ground for Varthur lake. Legal was the only to go, and we are glad that the NGT is taking it up,” said K. Elangovan, member of Whitefield Rising and a resident of the area.

“The action plan for Varthur is already there in the report of the expert committee formed by the Bangalore Development Authority on Bellandur lake. While the State government has been harping on setting up of STPs by 2020, we will at least know the steps they are taking till then and the timeline to implement these steps," he said.

According to the report, the main sewage inflow into Varthur comes from Bellandur, followed by 28 minor inlets. However, since the report was submitted, Varthur lake has been besieged by other problems, including construction of pipelines and roads.

For Jagadish Reddy of Varthur Rising, the NGT’s glare can only be effective if civic officials are suspended for inaction. “Even in Bellandur lake, we have seen civic officials plan projects worth crores only to deceive the NGT. The orders are not carried out in letter and spirit. There needs to be stricter monitoring to ensure that civic officials do not worsen the situation,” he said.

No relief for apartment complexes

The NGT did not give any relief to the 99 apartments that were served notices to install STPs within their premises. However, even curbing down on polluting apartments may not end the flow of sewage as nearly 60% of the city’s sewage flows into Bellandur lake.

Just a day before the fire, an ATREE researcher measured the pollution levels in five inlets of the lake. Of these, HAL, Agara and Koramangala inlets carry the most waste, in terms of volume and intensity of pollutants, shows the research.

If the faecal coliform levels (signifying human waste through sewage) in Kempapura or Yemlur inlets were in the range of 70,000 (most probable number of bacteria per 100 ml), at Koramangala it was 11 times more at 7.90 lakh.

“Going after a few apartments will not solve the sewage inflow. The large pollutants must be identified and common treatment plants must be built,” said Priyanka Jamwal, an ATREE researcher.

Srikant Narasimhan from the Bangalore Apartment Federation said that while lack of space within these apartment complexes could continue to be a problem, there is no other solution. “If an apartment is not connected to a sewerage network, some solution has to be thought of — whether an STP or transporting their sewage to an external STP. However, even this does not address the issue of how these apartments got built without planning for this infrastructure. Civic officials were hand-in-glove, and these officials must be booked,” he said.

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