On November 22, 2019 the Supreme Court of India declined to entertain a plea by the Karnataka government against the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT’s) order to the government to set aside Rs 500 crore in an escrow account towards cleaning a number of lakes in Bengaluru. In December 2018, the NGT had come down heavily on the state government on the neglect of Bellandur, Varthur and Agara lakes in the city. It had directed the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the municipal body, to pay Rs. 50 crore fine to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). This was challenged by the Karnataka government claiming that, “the amount which was directed to be deposited did not qualify as fine or penalty, and to comply with this direction of such a huge amount, the state would have to make separate budgetary allocation.” However, the apex court has declined the plea.
The commission set up by the NGT revealed that the Bellandur lake has caught fire twelve times since the first incident on August 12, 2016. The lake barely has 29% water of its full capacity and is the biggest lake in the city. The commission also found that the water storage capacity of the lake has reduced from 19.7 ml/cubic metre in 1973 to 5.5ml/cubic metre in May 2018. Rest is taken up by sediments and slush. The NGT had noted, "In spite of admitted grave situation, the state/BBMP have not taken any coercive measures against polluters or the concerned officers for their failure. No prosecution is shown to have been launched. No serious steps are shown to have been taken to remedy the situation. Thus, the state and the BBMP are also liable to pay compensation for the past failure."
Also read: Bengaluru: Once a City of Lakes, Now Faces Water Crisis
Bengaluru, known as the City of Lakes at one time, is now infamously known for its fuming, burning and lethal lakes. A report in the Guardian noted that, “A lethal mix of factors create an environment that merely requires the slightest of triggers for lakes to go up in flames. Untreated effluents pour into the waters from the many industries and homes on its banks, illegal waste disposal takes place on a large scale – often including rubbish which is set on fire – and invasive weeds cover large swathes of the lake in a thick green canopy.” Out of the total of 285 lakes in the 1970s, only 194 lakes survive and most of them are “sewage fed”.
As NewsClick had reported earlier, the city which was self sufficient in its water needs, is facing a serious water crisis currently. As the Guardian report rightly observes, Bengaluru has been subjected to unchecked urbanisation and IT boom. The report noted, “The rise of the IT sector has also created the problem of e-waste in the city...Bangalore produces 20,000 tonnes of e-waste per year. Although a formal recycling system for e-waste was set up, 90% of it is dealt with through the informal sector, which is harder to monitor. Unaware of the necessary safety measures, some incinerate the e-waste, releasing lead, mercury and other toxins into the air – and dump the rest, allowing pollutants to infiltrate the groundwater.”
Also Read: Is Your House Situated On A Lake Bed In Bengaluru? Chances Are It Might Be Demolished Soon
As the NGT had noted, it is now the responsibility of the government and the BBMP to take measures to clean the lakes and also take action against the polluters, thus protecting the lakes.