'Soap nuts’ to tackle Bellandur Lake pollution

'Soap nuts’ to tackle Bellandur Lake pollution

   The government has earmarked Rs 10 crore to formulate a scheme encouraging farmers to grow soap nuts (reetha) to check frothing. DH FILE PHOTO

The state government has announced little or nothing in the budget to address the Bellandur Lake problem.

It just mentions that Rs 50 crore has been allotted for the lake’s all-round rejuvenation. The budget states that steps will be taken to provide Bellandur lake water for agricultural activities in Bengaluru rural, through drip irrigation by Antharganga Micro Irrigation Corporation Limited (AMICL).

In an effort to check frothing in the lake due to effluents containing soaps and detergents, the government has earmarked Rs 10 crore to formulate a scheme encouraging farmers to grow soap nut (reetha). Since many countries use environment-friendly soaps, cultivating soap nut here will provide entrepreneurial opportunity for farmers.

Experts, however, say that merely growing soap nut will not suffice. The government, instead, should find ways to control frothing. “One doesn’t understand who is advising the government. The use of phosphate-based detergents and soaps is banned in other countries. The state should have interacted with the Centre and industries, and formulated a policy to control its manufacture. Whether it’s Yamuna or Bellandur, the problem is the same,” said Prof T V Ramchandra, Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc, and a member of the expert committee on Bellandur Lake.

Other committee members pointed out that mentioning Bellandur in the budget is just an eyewash, as the government has come under the scanner of the National Green Tribunal.

They also condemn the idea of using Bellandur water for irrigation. “There is no sign of AMICL except that its establishment was proposed in a 2010-11 project with Rs 100-crore capital. Untreated water will be pumped and supplied as there is no mention of treatment in the project,” a committee member said.

Priyanka Jamwal, a scientist at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (Atree), wondered how growing soap nut will address the existing problem of frothing in Bellandur Lake. Solutions are required now, she said.

The committee members said that the bureaucracy has come up with an ad hoc mechanism to utilise the money by constructing mesh, barricades and sluice gates. Being the oldest and largest, Bellandur Lake can address the drinking water needs of eastern Bengaluru, but with proper rejuvenation. The government should, instead, implement expert committee recommendations, they said.

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