Try going past the Ballandur lake, southeast of Bengaluru, and you may probably choke. Once a bountiful lake, years of neglect, rampant encroachment and dumping of untreated sewage and industrial waste have virtually turned it into a large septic tank.
In May 2015, things took a perilous turn when a portion of the lake started foaming due to pollution and caught fire! Though the incident caught the attention of many people, not much has changed since.
Now, the non-profit Namma Bengaluru Foundation, founded and supported by Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has taken up the cause of saving the lake.
In an open letter, the foundation has sought to reach out to Bengaluru residents to help give the lake a fresh lease of life.
We reproduce the letter here.
My Dear Friends and Fellow Bengalureans,
Warm (or perhaps ‘fiery’) greetings from me.
Possibly I do not need an introduction. Nevertheless, for those who still don’t know me: I am the disrepute of Bengaluru -- the frothy, foamy, toxic-filled, foul-smelling Bellandur Lake, which many claim has put Namma Bengaluru to shame on international landscapes.
Let me say, I owe this claim to fame to: a) the city's mindless administrative machinery, b) unlawful encroachers and c) all those who consider dumping waste (solid, liquid or industrial) in my waters their birth right!
For over 20 years now, while you have seen rapid development all around, I lay unattended, silently paying the price for this unprecedented urbanisation.
My dear friends, do you know -- Article 21 of our Constitution states clean air, water and environment to be the Fundamental Right of citizens of India? I wonder why these Fundamental Rights aren’t applied to the country’s natural resources like me! Has none of your grandparents told you they drank water from me and played by my side in their childhood, decades ago?
I wonder, how am I less important in your life today after having been a part of Bengaluru for so long?
Bengaluru has grown beyond reasonable predictions, but there's been a sharp decline of 79% in its water bodies between 1973 and 2013, affecting the physical, chemical and biological integrity of our city. But that’s not what you should be shocked about. I have something more dreadful to share.
I am exceedingly poisonous now.
My waters are harmful and so contaminated that coming in close contact with me will prove damaging to you.
The concentration of acids, bases and salts in my waters is 1592.0 microSiemens/cm, which is three times over the desirable limit and with the alkalinity ranging between 500 to 600 mg/l, you cannot dare imagine to drink of me anymore!
Hang on, the horror doesn't end here. My activist friends have informed me that my coliform count at present is greater than 1600 MPN/100 ml, which means I am choking on a bacteria that is typically found in our environment -- including feces of human beings and other warm-blooded animals.
Further, my E.coli levels that should normally bear no trace stand at 110 MPN/100 ml, which shows I am carrying disease-causing micro-organisms putting all of you to great risk.
Friends, these figures are no joke.
If you reside near me or if you have been in contact with me in recent times, then chances are you have fallen victim to waterborne infections causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
You would have or will also suffer other severe effects and in extreme cases, my pollutants could damage your lungs, skin, eyes, kidneys, nervous system and prove to harm you in more ways than one!
To be honest, I am weary and as frustrated as you are with the way government agencies like Bangalore Development Authority, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Karnataka Industrial Area Developmental Board etc, have responded to my deteriorating health.
Perfect in the act of passing the buck, they have quietly and criminally signed my death warrant. I am suffocated by indiscriminate disposal of industry effluents & sewage wastes, building debris and all the poison that is being dumped into me without any treatment.
I am dying gradually and extremely painfully, but the authorities clearly are least concerned!
I too wanted development, but illegal and reckless encroachment on my lake bed has caused me immeasurable harm.
Does anyone care that I have been ripped down from 892 acres to 700 acres in quick time? Also, no one is bothered about maintaining the 30.0 metre ‘No-development Buffer Zone’ around me, which would have at least served as protection.
I find activists and friends who come to me shouting slogans, giving me a ray of hope. I have also felt the concerned touch of a handful of scientists, engineers and ecologists. But I fear that all this may be too little, too late!
I heard a little bird once say, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
I beg to differ and want to scream out saying: I AM NO LONGER CAPABLE OF ACCEPTING THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE. IT IS NOW TIME TO CHANGE THE THINGS I CANNOT ACCEPT. But I can fight only if YOU help me right now, my friends.
Death is not too far away from me. It is a matter of time before I become a thing of the past and the world will then know me as "Bellandur -- the Lake that was".
With the Cauvery unable to cater to all your water needs and with groundwater levels falling at an alarming rate, I am perhaps your only hope.
I am Bengaluru's largest water body and restoring me is one real way you and I can ensure better times for our city.
As citizens of Bengaluru, it is your responsibility to stall the irrational encroachment of land in the name of development; it is also your duty to restrict decision makers from misusing their discretion and allowing unchecked pollution and land grabbing; it is for you to safeguard the natural resources of our city and above all it is your actions in time that can change the course of our future.
I will be happy to hear from you, for your support matters. Do write to me on how you think I can fight this battle for survival. Science, engineering, legal means or through policy. I will ask a few expert friends of mine to take a look at these, while I remain eternally thankful to you.
Let me conclude by saying, we do not remember days of our lives, we remember moments. And I would like to forget and erase these terrible years of poisonous life that I have been living. This would be possible only if you help me get a fresh lease of life.
Yours forever and foamingly,