Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) stopped the digging and the excavation of silt from Varthur lake due to rains.
The digging up of the Varthur Lake to desilt has now been paused creating more problems for residents and local farmers. Dirty water and silt have created a stench in the area.
“We have started desilting the Varthur lake but due to rains, we had paused it,” said an official of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) Lakes Department.
According to the documents of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), the lake has about 4 lakh cubic metres of silt which still needs to be removed.
“Earlier, we used the lake water for irrigation and other household purposes. Now we cannot imagine using it for any purpose,” said Manjunath, a local farmer.
Prasanna, a resident near the lake, said that the foul smell of the polluted lake is disturbing residents. “We have faced similar issues earlier but for some time. There was no such smell in the locality. It is only after the digging, the smell has come back,” he said.
He added that the Varthur Main Road has been prone to flooding for the last three to four years. “Due to heavy rains and digging near the lake, the road becomes inaccessible at times,” he added.
Flooding and sewage water
In October 2021, heavy rains flooded many lakes including the Varthur lake with sewage water. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) told the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) that the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) was responsible.
“The lakes are the lowest points in the city and many of these lakes are not properly maintained,” said Venugopal, founder of the Guardians of Lakes Environmental Trust (GOLET). He said that the improper construction and maintenance of the sewerage points of the lake affects the nearby residents as most of the water flows directly on the road.
The digging done by the water-tanker suppliers and installation of tubes to fill the private bore wells near the lake has also led to many open points from where dirty water flows into the lake.
“Local shops and granite factories have added to the pollution of the lake,” said Nirmal Rai, security in-charge at Varthur lake. He added that there are many small car washing centres which directly dump the waste water in the lake.
In November 2021, around 200 children around the locality near Varthur and Belandur lakes fell ill after drinking polluted water.
A report points out that there is no check on the quality and source of water supplied by these private water-tank providers.
“Many borewells that supply water to the areas near many lakes in the city are polluted. Some borewells have filters installed but they do not work,” said Madhuri Subarao, co-founder of the Friends of Lakes.
The BBMP and the Karnataka government approached the World Bank (WB) for loans to develop the infrastructure of the lake.
“Government and BBMP used to spend crores of rupees on the beautification projects of the lake. Instead of cleaning them, BDA and BBMP focused on developing gym areas around the lake. A lake is a lake. Why do you want to disturb its ecosystem?” she added.
In October 2021, the Earth Day Network India, an environmental organization, gave the ‘Earth Day Network Star Municipal Leadership’ award to BBMP for rejuvenating 18 lakes in the city and taking up development projects for seven more.
“A problem that the government is unable to handle is the management of population settlement near the lakes. Maintenance of lakes is not a big problem but as more people come in the city and live in temporary settlements near the lake, pollution problem arise in those localities,” Subarao added.
In March 2021, the Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority (KTCDA) cleared the Detailed Project Reports (DPR) to rejuvenate Varthur lake at the cost of Rs. 119 crore. Due to the monsoon, the Lakes Department (LD) and BDA could not progress with the work.
In 2020, The Israel Trade Missions in India, a department under the Israeli Ministry of Economy, shared a proposal to clean the polluted lakes of Bengaluru.
“For now, our plan is to look after controlling the sewage and pollution in the lake. Once we do that, many problems faced by the locals would go. After that, we will resume the desilting process,” said the LD official.