Sunday 14 July 2013

A fish out of water

It is one of the largest manmade lake in south East Asia and it is also perhaps the only water body which froths and foams regularly, thanks to unchecked pollutants which still continue to pour into the water body.
Just three decades ago, this water body had such a clear and clean waterline that you could spot a coin if you tossed it into the lake. It was also the place where Bangalore has its biggest lake fish market. The lake is just two kms from the Koramanangla valley and it once stored 17.66 million cubic feet of water.
Apart from the fish market, the lake was the lifeline of scores of villages and it supplied them potable water apart from irrigating thousands of acres. The waters helped grow rice and vegetables.
This is the once famous Bellandur lake, whose origin is still a mystery. While some put it at 140 years, others say Kempe Gowda, the second, built it more than 500 years ago. The lake survived till 1980 when growing urbanization led to its death.
The Bellandur lake is part of the Bellandur Ammanakere, Iblur, Kempapura, Agara and Bellur water bodies. Rain water from  Koramangala valley flowed into Bellandur lake and from there excess water entered Varthur Lake through waste weirs at Bellandur and Kempapura villages.
The  lake was the lifeline of more than 18 villages. While villagers of Bellandur and Kariamana Agrahara focused on agriculture and growing vegetables, residents of Yemlur and Kempapura made their livelihood by fishing.
Agriculture continued around the water body till the area comprising 330 acres was taken over by the BBMP which ten forbid farming. However, even today, one can see remnants of paddy farming downstream of the water body.
Fishing, agriculture and other activities continued in and around Bellandur till 1980. Since then, the decline began and this coincided with the growing urbanization of Bangalore. The death of the lake commenced when the authorities began thinking of expanding the HAL Airport and in no time development took over the area adjacent to HAL and surrounding areas.
The growing urbanisation took its toll and unchecked encroachment coupled with lax pollution norms, greed for real estate, BWSSB letting untreated sewage flow into the once pristine water body led to the degeneration of the lake.
The lake, which has a recorded history of more than 140 years, is today spread over 900 acres. The Bellandur lake is today a lake only in name. It froths and foams so regularly that it has ceased to surprise the populace.
The detergents and chemicals have combined to make the water body a frothy mass. What is more alarming is that despite all tall claims of  having spent crores of rupees on its revival and rejuvenation, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has nailed the lie and said all such plans have been halted midway, leading to wastage of  Rs. 1.9 crores already spent for the purpose.  
The CAG report is in public domain and it has studied the plan drawn up to revive the water body. The CAG has noted that though the water body received Rs 5.54 crore from the National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP), only Rs 1.91 crore has been spent and even that too has been taken up in a half hearted manner.
The report has held as responsible the Lake Development Authority (LDA)for its failure to stop the inflow of sewage into Bellandur lake and also divert sewage from the water body.
It says the plan to revive and rejuvenate Bellandur lake was sanctioned in January 2003. The project was expected to be completed by August 2004. But no such ting happened and untreated sewage continued to flow into the water body.
The LDA had been asked to take up charge of the revival but the CAG notes that the LDA failed to stop sewage from entering into the lake.
With 400 million litres to 500 million litres of sewage entering the lake on an average every day, the revival failed to take off.
The lake provided water to residents of 18 villages including Siddapura, Gunjur, Bellandur, Belur, Haralur, Hanathuru, Aambalapura, Kudlu, Balagere, Kempapura, Devara Bisanahalli, Kadu Bisanahalli, Yamlur, Nagasandra, Ramagondinahalli, Munne Kolalu, Kariyammana Agrahara and Bhoganahalli. Now, the lake is more of a bane than a boon and its polluted waters have kept even animals away.
Apart from the failed revival plan, the authorities have also miserably failed to revive fishing in the water body. Bellandur tank so well known for its fishes that even members of the fishing community from neighbouring districts of Kolar, Tumkur and other states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu came down and settled nearby.  The fishing community, especially on the northern shore, was a prosperous one and at least 108 families were totally dependent on fishing for their livelihood. Most of the fishermen belonged to the Tigala and Muslim communities.  
Bellandur was once know for its catfish and it had many takers in the City. Apart from catfish, the water body also hosted several other varieties.

The fishing activity in Bellandur and Kempapura was well known in Bangalore till the 1980s after which it went into a decline. Even today, the remnants of the  fish market can be seen near the bund of the lake.
Today, the water body is gasping for life, just like a fish out of water. The lake is on its last legs and it has lost its character to fight pollution on its own. It is gasping for life and it is for us to either give it back its life or take it away. Which will it be. Only time will tell.?   

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