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'Vicinity' problem may hinder closing of industries around Bellandur lake

Rasheed Kappan, Bengaluru, DH News Service, Apr 21 2017, 1:51 IST

Uncertain future: 'Highly-polluting' HAL airport too in close proximity to water body

Industries, small and big, are directly responsible for the heavy metal contamination of the lake water, and the KSPCB should be squarely blamed for letting them operate, says Dr T V Ramachandra from the IISc. KSPCB chairman Lakshman inspects a frothing Bellandur lake in this DH file photo.

Industries, small and big, are directly responsible for the heavy metal contamination of the lake water, and the KSPCB should be squarely blamed for letting them operate, says Dr T V Ramachandra from the IISc. KSPCB chairman Lakshman inspects a frothing Bellandur lake in this DH file photo.

Shutting down industries that let out untreated effluents into drains leading to the Bellandur lake might not happen in a hurry. Reason: Lack of clarity on the extent of the lake's catchment area.

Hundreds of small-scale industrial units linked to garments, laundry, dyeing, leather tanning and automobile maintenance have sprung up around the lake. Many, it is suspected, discharge their chemical-rich waste water into stormwater drains that directly flow into the lake.

But if the lake receives 447 Million Litres Daily (MLD) of untreated sewage, shouldn't the scope of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order be expanded to cover 40% of the area under Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP)?

Official estimates say as much as 1,400 MLD of sewage is generated in areas under BBMP's jurisdiction.
“Sewage generated by apartments, houses and other units in Bellandur and other areas surrounding the lake cannot exceed 2-3 MLD. How do you account for the 447 MLD?” wonders environmentalist Nagesh Aras.

The definition of 'vicinity' would require more clarity. Aras explained, “For instance, would the Iblur lake – which is linked to the Bellandur lake by a 400m channel – be part of the latter's catchment area? Any pollutant that enters the Iblur lake will reach the downstream Bellandur lake in two hours.”

Industries would also mean the big public sector undertakings, many of which lack adequate Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs). Since these PSUs were well outside the city limits when they were established decades ago, STPs were not mandated for them.

However, the city's explosive growth has brought these industries well within the BBMP area. Many of them are in close proximity to the Bellandur lake. So is the HAL airport, classified under the extreme red category by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).

By implication, 'industries' could also include hundreds of car and bike garages that repair smoke-spewing automobiles and release the pollutants into drains. This way, vehicular pollutants can take on an industrial dimension. Airborne pollutants released by slow-moving vehicles settle down and are washed by rains into the lakes adding to the heavy metal silt.

‘KSPCB's negligence’
Industries, small and big, are directly responsible for the heavy metal contamination of the lake water, and the KSPCB should be squarely blamed for letting them operate, contended Dr T V Ramachandra from Indian Institute of Science.

The KSPCB's negligence, he said, had led to mushrooming of polluting industries around the lake. Zero discharge claims are bogus. Even big aviation companies in the lake's vicinity are at fault. Samples tested from the Bellandur lake had shown traces of aviation fuel. Stringent enforcement of the rules by the KSPCB could have prevented this, he added.

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