NGT raps Karnataka govt. over recurring fires in Bellandur lake

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday rapped the Karnataka government for not taking active measures to prevent recurring fires at the severely polluted Bellandur lake, the most recent one of which — on January 19 — raged on for more than 24 hours.

A Bench headed by NGT acting chairperson U.D. Salvi directed the government to submit a time-bound action plan by January 29. Slamming the State government for not taking preventive measures despite previous instances of the lake catching fire, the Bench said, “This is the sixth occurrence. The magnitude might differ but the pattern is similar. You are the State, you can take action against miscreants.”

However, a senior official of the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) informed the tribunal that investigations carried out in earlier instances had attributed the cause of fire to be “accidental or intentional”.

Furthermore, the State government representative contended that locals were in the habit of venturing into the lake to collect grass for cattle feed and that the dry grass was resulting in fire. The official said that 70% of the weeds had been cleared, while the grasslands had been cleaned. In response, the panel asked, “If it catches fire then why hasn’t it been cleaned? And if 70% has been cleaned, then how did it catch fire?”

The counsel appearing for petitioner M.P. Kupendra Reddy argued that the recurrent cases of fire were because of the froth that got collected in the lake.

“The Commissioner of the BDA explains that this occurrence was because of individuals going into the lake to collect grass for cattle feed. This contention is refuted by the counsel for the applicant who submits that fire in Bellandur lake is due to froth generated in the lake as a result of unregulated discharge of domestic and industrial sewage,” the Bench observed.

Emphasising on a detailed action plan, the Bench said, “The controversy arising needs to be put to rest after action plan with a timeline is placed on record.”

The massive fire that erupted in the lake on January 19 saw over 5,000 people — Armymen and Fire and Emergency Services personnel — working to douse the flames.

Only a day prior, the green body had directed the State government to submit a comprehensive chart for controlling the pollution in waterbodies. “We make it clear that the action is necessary in environmental interest and any delay on account of non-compliance of this direction would entail consequences in terms of environmental compensation,” the Bench had said.

Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO of Namma Bengaluru Foundation, which is one of the petitioners, said it was time for the State government to act on the recommendations of the Expert Committee Report on rejuvenation of the 750-acre waterbody. “The cause of long duration and intensity of the fire needs to be scientifically established and made available to all Bengalureans. It is time the government stopped being in the state of denial,” he said in a statement.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 10:37:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/ngt-raps-karnataka-govt-over-recurring-fires-in-bellandur-lake/article22520856.ece

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