Residents complain of foul smell and mosquito menace; Officials blame the slum-dwellers
By Tamanna Yasmin
Untreated sewage is being released into Puttenahalli lake in JP Nagar 7th phase. Residents say that despite several complaints, BBMP has done nothing to stop it.
Poorna Chandra, a resident of Bank of Baroda Layout which is near the lake, informed The Observer: “Puttenahalli lake is dying despite us complaining to BBMP several times. Untreated sewage is being released directly into the lake. Fish are dying because of this. There is a foul smell. The lake is a perfect spot for mosquito breeding, resulting in dengue and malaria.”
Shruti Bharadwaj, another resident of the layout, said: “The water… is filthy. A layer has formed on the surface which is causing a foul smell. When we asked one of the persons who is in charge of the park surrounding the lake, he said people who live nearby have their drainage pipes connected to the lake. When it rains, all the garbage in the surrounding area reaches the lake. I don’t think there are living fish in the lake.”
The website of the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT) says: “In May 2011, the BBMP formally handed over the maintenance of Puttenahalli Lake to PNLIT, the first instance of a lake being given to a citizens’ group. BBMP gives no financial assistance, and PNLIT meets the expenses through public donations.”
PNLIT chairperson Usha Rajagopalan said, “Sewage has been flowing into the lake from neighbouring Nataraja Layout since June 3. The underground drainage pipes were overflowing. Before BWSSB could take any step, the residents took the matter into their hands and opened the drains, releasing sewage into the lake.
“We were in touch with BWSSB for repair of the overflowing pipes. They said the pipelines needed replacement with bigger size. They also began work but had to stop when eight or nine houses built right above the UGD (underground drainage) refused to shift temporarily to facilitate completion of the work,” Rajagopalan said.
On March 7, 2019, the high court disposed of a writ petition filed by the slum-dwellers in which they asked for plots of land, and not temporary sheds built for them by the Slum Clearance Board.
Jagannath Rao, deputy conservator of forests and lakes, BBMP, agreed with Rajagopalan. “We are requesting the slum-dwellers to temporarily vacate the place and shift to the houses built for them so that BWSSB can continue with their work of stretching the underground pipeline. But they are refusing to do so. So the sewage has no other way and is entering the lake. This is more of a social problem that the authorities should address.
“We are trying our best to coordinate with the local corporators to resolve this. But even after everything if they do not vacate the place, the last resort is to demolish the houses to continue with the work. Only about 30 metres of pipeline work is pending because of this; the rest is complete.”
Usha, the assistant engineer who is looking after the lake project, said: “We have funds but the problem is with the houses built over the UGD. We are trying our best to convince the dwellers. The high court has given them 14 months to vacate the place. So right now we cannot think of demolition. It will take some time.”
Sandeep Anirudhan, an environmentalist, said: “Under any circumstance, sewage should never reach the lake. Due to the inflow of sewage, the quality of water is degraded, and oxygen supply to the lake has gone down. This is very harmful to organisms in the lake.”
It is a serious issue that can adversely affect the ecological balance. BWSSB and other government agencies should try to solve the problem at the earliest, Anirudhan added
According to the PLIT website, in 2008, Puttenahalli lake was on the verge of drying up. The water level had receded to a significant extent because of water inlet dysfunction, groundwater depletion, and encroachment.
Moved by the condition of the lake, some citizens started a campaign to save the water body. They got BBMP to revive the lake. PNLIT trust was registered in 2010. To attract the water birds back to the lake, the trust, along with BBMP, planted around 125 saplings around the lake.
Feature image credit: Poorna Chandra