Tharangini Bala

Another lake in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India suffers the same fate as other water bodies in the city.  Halegevaderahalli Lake went from being a dump to being rejuvenated and restored again to become a dump, all in a span of 6 years at a cost of  Rs 5 crore.

The 9 acre lake has an overall area of around 17 acres, of which 2 acres are open space and 6 acres are encroached upon. It is one of the oldest water bodies in Bengaluru and was once a source of drinking water to people living nearby.

The sad state of the lake attracted public attention and pressure and led to the lake being revived, restored and rejuvenated. Less than one and a half years after the work, the lake is once again filled with sewage, rubbish and plastic leaving little indication of the effort that went in.

Sewage and trash in the lake

Niveditha Sunkad, activist, environmentalist, social worker and founding member of RR Nagar I Care trust, who was involved in initiating and taking forward lake rejuvenation in 2015 says, “BBMP put in efforts to clean it up and brought it to a certain level but then we have been asking them to handle the ‘Rajkaluve’ and storm water drains. Without cleaning them, we cannot have clean lakes. It is a problem when it rains bringing along sewage and trash to the lake. Though there is a wall blocking it, during heavy rains it hits this barrier and overflows into the lake.”

According to former BBMP Solid waste management committee member 
N S Ramakanth, the non-responsiveness of top officials in RR Nagar despite the best efforts of the Joint commissioner of the area, is causing a huge problem. “I even alerted the special commissioner to see that they are transferred or disciplined. The inspectors are doing their bit but have their own limitations.” He now has his hopes placed on the new superintendent engineer who has a good reputation and is expected to deliver good results.

The lake is now stinking and is filled with filth.

Joseph Hoover, United Conservation Movement is equally upset with the appalling mismanagement of the lake. “Once the lake rejuvenation task was complete, civic authorities should have ensured that the sewage entering the lake should have been either diverted or a sewage treatment plant (STP) set up to protect the lake. Sewage is again mixing up with storm water drains and flowing into the lake. The lake is now stinking and is filled with filth.”

Installing a STP to curtail the problem comes with its own reasons for non- implementation. “BBMP has said there is not enough volume of sewage and trash to set up an STP,” says Nivedita, while Ramakanth says another reason for not using the STP is the excessive power consumption, so they prefer not using it.

Confusion in lake management is another big problem here. It has bounced from one authority to another – from BDA to Lake Development authority to BBMP. Now bifurcation of the job within BBMP itself is another issue, opines Niveditha. The department in charge of storm water drains should ensure sewage does not flow into the lake.

“Strict measures have to be taken otherwise it will not work,” Ramkanth says and warns it will not be long before Halegevaderahalli lake also starts frothing like Bellandur and Varthur lake. If officials are not taking action, having marshals to patrol and protect the lake  is the only alternative as seen in the case of  the other two lakes.

Heavy rains brings with it sewage and trash through storm water drains.

Niveditha is relieved that at least no further encroachments have happened after lake rejuvenation. “Encroachments are regular now,” says Ramakanth, and is happening continuously despite protests from local residents.

The blame, however, should be equally shared by concerned officials as also public since it is as much a social responsibility to ensure no one connects their sewage lines to the lake feels Joseph.

The recent directions of the High Court instructing the state government and BBMP to restore 19 lakes that have disappeared is an encouraging one and so this lake can be held as an example of all that went wrong with crores of public money gone down the drain.

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