Eco Talk: The Reality of Living Near the Polluted Bellandur Lake

“We care about nature only when something terrible happens, or when that terrible thing starts affecting us personally,” says Christina. She says that nowadays, people have become so indifferent and uninformed that we have been destroying Mother Nature intentionally as well as unintentionally.

Bellandur Lake is the largest lake in the city of Bengaluru. Located in the south-east of the city, its water was used for agricultural purposes before it was contaminated.

In this episode, Christina mentions that the problems faced by the lake did not start today but during the 1980s. “It started when unplanned growth broke the chains of the tanks and the lakes feeding the Bellandur Lake. This reduced the amount of rainwater reaching the lake to recharge it. The other reason is a development that let out untreated sewage water from housing societies into the lake’s waters and people who started using the lakes around them to dump solid waste into.” She reveals that this waste is directly responsible for igniting the foam on the lake’s waters, which has made international headlines multiple times. The toxic foam can rise many feet above the water before settling down due to rain. This can leave the surrounding areas and the water reeking with a bad stench.

People from the nearby localities have many opinions and stories connected to the lake. “Dakshina Pinakini is a river and this river splits into the Varthur Lake and Bellandur Lake. As opposed to what was earlier, buildings have taken over the place of agricultural lands and as the city started developing, sewage water and the waste from nearby industries began to be emptied into the lakes. This has led to the present situation of the lakes. The persons at BDA say that they have spent around ten crores for the development of the lakes but as a resident of this area, I cannot vouch for any such development. The sewage is not coming from a single house or a single factory, it is coming from all the houses and factories that are situated around this area.”

The contamination of the lake has become an everyday reality for the citizens around. “It has only been a few months since I shifted to Bangalore and I have experienced the bad odour emanating from the lake very strongly. If no action is taken at the earliest then this might give rise to serious problems like allergies, which have already come up for me.”

Another citizen mentions, “We face a lot of health issues because of this unclean water in our area. Most of us have skin allergies, rashes, etc., and others face various other types of infections.”

Srinivas Yemlur says, “It is during the summer season that we face extreme problems. When the sun’s rays fall on the surface of the lake, it starts emitting a very bad odour and leads to various types of illnesses. It often starts with itching problems which then lead to respiratory problems; elderly people keep complaining about extreme knee pain. An extreme possibility can be that it can cause cancer as well. Very recently, one of my friends’ mother passed away due to cancer and their house is situated very close to the lake. Neither BWSSB nor any other governmental organisation has taken the initiative to divert the course of the lake. I feel that they are just making money out of all these situations. In the previous years, had sewage not been left in the lake, this wouldn’t have been the water’s present situation. I feel that the society that we lived in earlier was heaven and the one where we are living now is equal to hell.”

Due to the contamination situation, many of the residents from Bellandur and nearby places like Nagasandra, Yemlur, Kempapura, and Agrahara have vacated their homes and moved to other places.

Chandrasekhar tells that “When I was around ten or twelve years old, I used to swim in this very lake, but now, I cannot even think about it. There are so many unwanted things that have been dumped into these lakes. What we are facing now, our future generations will suffer ten times worse. Earlier, people used to come from the outskirts of Bangalore into the city, but since this situation has worsened, the locals are now moving towards the outskirts of the city. I feel that it is still not too late, though. If we can somehow try to save this lake, it will be very helpful for all the residents”.

Kailash Kaushik, an environment enthusiast, says, “Bangalore was once called the ‘Garden City’ but it is not so today and it is very sad to see that the lakes have also not been protected. It shows sheer apathy on the government’s side. Bellandur Lake is the largest lake not only in the city of Bangalore but in the whole district itself and to see it being polluted is very sad. We have fought for the protection of the lake, but nothing much has come about. The foam on the lake is killing the few species of fish living in the water and pollutants from the surrounding areas are making a mess of the already dirty lake. If no immediate action is taken, the lake may dry up by next year. We might lose a major economical hotspot and many species of birds. In the end, we cannot blame anyone but ourselves for encroaching upon these lands, for putting plastics into the water and for allowing the lake to catch fire.”

Listen in for more…

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