Friday, 12 July 2013

Foaming with chemicals and detergents

Very few cities in the world have the distinction of  having a foaming and frothing tank and also a river. Bangalore has this dubious distinction and what is more the foam and froth is a perennial sight.
It may sound unbelievable but the lake is the biggest in Bangalore and till a few year ago, it boasted of a thriving fish market on its shores or bund and it irrigated large lands apart from  meeting the drinking water needs of  thousands of Bangaloreans. Today, all this is a thing of the past and the vast water body is so full of detergents, chemicals and silage that it is always in a state of foaming.
Similarly, the river, once the pride of Bangalore, is a vicious cesspool and almost al of Bangalore’s wastes, industrial effluents, debris, filth have choked it, making it more of a drain.
The river is Vrishabhavati, which originates in Peenya and flows for about 52 kilometres before joining the Arkavathy. The total catchment area of Vrishabhavati is estimated to be about 350 sq.km. A perennial channel of waste water, during summers it almost entirely carries sewage, both industrial and domestic from south west parts of Bangalore apart from industrial effluents from industries located in the vicinity.
The quantity of domestic sewage entering the Vrishabhavati is around 290 MLD and industrial effluents 10 MLD. Thus the total
flow during summers into the river is estimated at about 300 MLD.
No wonder, the river is now almost dead though insensitive politicians and an equally inept bureaucracy coupled with greedy encroachers continue making crores by promising to clean up the river and revive it and floating schemes after schemes, none of which seem to work.
This is the unfortunate scenario of  two of Bangalore’s best known water bodies-the Bellandur lake and Vrishabhavati river. Both today are the best examples of  foolish and mindless urban planning and a perfect tribute to the shortsightedness of man.
As late as the 1970s, the Vrishabhavati gently flowed across several localities of Bangalore and scores of villages, provided drinking water and even gave people a variety of aquatic and marine life. Even the scholarly Madhwa or Dwaitha saint, Vyasa Raja or Vysas Raya who was the preceptor of no less than six Vijayanagar Emperors, was so charmed by the rover that he consecrated one of  his by now legendary 732 Hanuman temples on its bank and this is today the Gali Anjeneya Temple.     
Though the Gali Anjeneya Temple is a landmark of Bangalore and it is visited by thousands of people every day, even it has not been spared the angst of being bathed in Vrishabhavati during the rainy season. Unfortunately, the Vrishabhavati at that point is nothing but a mass of poison, industrial effluent, untreated chemicals, waste and raw sewage. It seems even God cannot help our Vrishabhavati and this really seems ironical as Hanuman is the Monkey God who could move mountains, fly across oceans and during a childish prank alarm the Sun by trying to swallow it. But Bangaloreans have outdone this God by bathing him regularly with sewage. Oh, God, what other instance of Urban crassness carelessness is required, you may well ask, for not even having spared God and his abode.
The Vrishabhavati meandered through several villages such as Bhyremangala, Ittamadu, Chowkahalli, Shanamangala, Ramanahalili, Seshagirihalli, Gopalahalli and many other hamlets, giving free water to the people. Now, it can give only smell, disease and revulsion. 
If the Vrishabhavati at the Gali Anjeneya Temple is perhaps the most despicable act of Bangaloreans, there is more shame to follow. Go down the Mysore Road and at Bidadi take the road to Byremangala lake. This lake was constructed in 1940 at a distance of 30 kilometres from Bangalore to hold excess water from the Vrishabhavati. This water fed households and catered to agricultural needs of  a dozen villages.
Walk down the bund of the lake and when you approach the sluice gates you will be stunned to see a frothing mass being discharged. This is the water that is being used to grow vegetables and which we now eat. Take a look at how the once beautiful water now sprays detergent and chemicals.
If this is not enough,  take a look at the water almost opposite the course of the Vrishabhavati. This is the once clean Bellandur lake which catered to the needs of not only Bellandur but as many as sixteen villages just two decades ago. Today, the Bellandur lake foams so often that the sight is now more disgusting and disturbing than bizarre.
Once an integral part of Bellandur drainage system that drains the southern and the southeastern parts of the city, the water body today is almost dead and gone. The lake is a receptor from three chains of lakes upstream and it spread over a huge area. It has a catchment area of about 148 square kilometres (37,000 acres) falls over 41 wards of BBMP.
When Bellandur overflowed, water flowed east to the Varthur lake which is seven kms away, from where it flows down the plateau and eventually into the Pinakani river basin.
Just a decade ago, residents of Bellandur and visitors to the lake saw plenty of King Cobras and other wildlife like king fishers, parrots, parakeets, wood pigeons, kites, cobras, rat snakes and  monitor lizards apart from hares, frogs, several species of  fishes, ants, earthworms, all of which have now disappeared.
The only species of fish you can spot in the oily smelly water of the lakes is Tileapia and Catfish.
By the way, if you want to see the magnificent King Cobra in the wild, the best bet is Agumbe which is several hundred kilometers away. See just what urbanization has done to Bangalore. Not only has it driven away water but t has also compelled the original King to migrate to safer places. Is it worth paying such a price?.
What is shocking is that more than 412 million litres of untreated sewage per day is being let into this lake and there seems to be no end in sight to this degradation.
Spread over 950 acres, this lake was the lifeline of  scores of villages and till the 1908s supplied potable water to residents of Bellandur,  Yamlur, Belur, Gunjur, Kudlu, Haralur, Aambalapura,  Balagere, Nagasandra, Hanathuru, Devara Bisanahalli, Kadu Bisanahalli, Kempapura, Ramagondinahalli, Siddapura, Munne Kolalu, Kariyammana Agrahara and  Bhoganahalli.
Now, it receives sewage from Ulsoor Lake, Chellaghatta Valley, Hulimavu, Doddbegur drain, Madivala Lake, Tavarrrakere, Bellandur and surrounding areas which then enter Varthur lake and further to Kudlu, Kasavanhalli, Karalur, Parapnagar and Swalakeara lakes.
With a length of  three kms and 2.75 kms in width, Bellandur is  one of the largest man-made lakes in South East Asia. Alas, what a fall to this water body. 

Strangely, the decline of both the water bodies almost coincided and it all began in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was when a prolonged drought in and around Bangalore dried up lakes and tanks beds and an insensitive Government gave away these lands and civic agencies such as KHB and BDA formed layouts and sites. 

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