Govt officials, activists split over lake rejuvenation

Clueless

While the city’s waterbodies are rapidly deteriorating, environmentalists and government officials are divided over how to revive them.

Water activist S Vishwanath of Biome Environmental Solutions dubbed the ongoing lake rejuvenation project useless and misguided pork-barrel spending. “The BBMP’s rejuvenation plan is more like turning the lakes into a sort of swimming pool or a drinking water reservoir,” Vishwanath said.

He said waterbodies in the city should ideally be regarded as wetlands, which would help achieve several goals like rejuvenating groundwater table, using natural systems to clean up polluted water and restoring biodiversity.

Moreover, the government seemingly discounted the fact that little usable water could be extracted from the lakes, pointed out Shuba Ramachandran, a water project manager at Biome. “Questions arise as to how much water will be extracted and how lakes can be made self sustainable.”

Jakkur Lake, for instance, had Rs 100 crore for its rejuvenation, but the water quality is still class C or D despite the glassy surface, said Vishwanath. “About nine million litres of untreated water is fed into this daily,” he added.

But BWSSB chairman Tushar Girinath had a different take on the issue. He said the city should convert lakes into water storage areas in an effort to diversify its water sources.

“Sewage flowing into the lakes through stormwater drains could be diverted in one to two years. The lakes could be rejuvenated in another two years,” he said. “Our lakes will be good enough by 2020-2023 and in usable condition.” 

Dr Sharadchandra Lele, a distinguished fellow at Atree’s Centre for Environment and Development, said the position of experts and government officials are in the extremes.

“One side argues that sewage water can’t be prevented from entering the catchment area, while the other side believes all sewage can be stopped. But in light of the disconnected sewage entering the system, the latter isn’t easy to ensure,” Lele said.

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