Monsoon could delay Bellandur lake desilting deadline

Bellandur lake desilting: Second wave, monsoon could delay deadline

This image shows an excavator being used to desilt the Vrishabhavathi river following heavy rain on Monday night. Credit: DH Photo/Ranju P

Desilting work at Bellandur Lake has been stalled for a month due to Covid restrictions, with the monsoon season expected to hinder the progress further.

Sources said the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has excavated only 30% of the land at the lake, with a mere nine lakh cubic metre of silt being dredged out of the estimated 25 lakh cubic metres. They also managed to transport two lakh cubic metres of silt removed from the lake, while seven lakh cubic metres of silt still remain at the site.

BDA officials said the rain would not affect the silt, but it would adversely hit the desilting work.

“There is hardly any progress for a month now. The labourers cannot work on the site for at least three days following a splash of rain. The machines cannot be moved in and out as the place gets flooded,” said a BDA engineer overseeing the work.

With the second Covid wave and subsequent lockdown snagging the work, officials said they were unable to mobilise drivers and labourers to transport the piling silt. “Even after the easing of the lockdown (guidelines), many drivers have not turned up for work,” said a contractor who did not want to be named.

BDA officials are doubtful if the August 2022 deadline for the project could be met. A BDA engineer said labourers must work overtime to meet the deadline post the monsoon. “There are high chances that the silting work may be delayed,” he said.

Earlier, challenges in finding a place to dump the silt caused more obstacles. “In the beginning, we had the option of moving the silt as it was excavated, but that couldn’t happen as we were not assigned a place to dump it,” the engineer said. “Now, we can’t move the entire silt at once.”

Workers on the site told DH that restrictions in the movement of trucks did not help matters. “If we decide to move all the silt, the surrounding roads will be jammed. So, we have to do it gradually,” a worker said.

The work may have started in December 2020, but uncertainty on where to dump the silt caused the large-scale pile-up.

The contractor said the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) gave its report only in March, prolonging the uncertainty over which part of the lake had hazardous silt.

While that slowed down the pace, the contractor said it picked up since March and had to be halted yet again in April.

The silt from Bellandur Lake is now deposited in the Vittasandra quarry, with the government also getting permission to dump the silt in the adjoining defence land.

“We have obtained permission to deposit only a portion of the silt at the defence land. This will save us both time and money. The remaining will have to be moved to the quarry,” said a senior BDA official. 

Scene at Bellandur Lake   

Total area to be excavated: 916 acres

Area excavated since Dec 2020: 250-300 acres

Total silt to be removed: 25 lakh cubic metres (cu m) 

Silt excavated since Dec 2020: 9 lakh cu m

Silt transported since March 2021: 2.25 lakh cu m 

Project deadline: August 2022

Total project cost: Rs 100.3 crore