Test silt from frothing lakes before donating: Farmers

Authorities expect to exhume 6.60 million cubic metres of silt from Bellandur Lake. The silt could be used in 15,000 acres of farmland. DH PHOTO

Farmers who are promised the silt from the Bellandur and Varthur lakes are concerned that it could be contaminated, and have asked authorities to ensure it is clean.

Authorities expect to exhume as much as 6.60 million cubic metres of silt from the Bellandur Lake and 3.87 million cubic metres from Varthur. Sources said the silt could be used in 15,000 acres of farmland.

While the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) – in charge of carrying out the desilting of the two lakes — is unsure of what to do with the silt, talks are going on about dumping them in identified quarries.

But the committee headed by former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde to oversee the rejuvenation of the two lakes, formed according to the directions of the National Green Tribunal in 2018, confirmed that the silt would be distributed among the farmers after tests.

"Talks have been held with the lake wardens and silt will be given to the farmers after tests," said T V Ramachandra, a scientist from the Indian Institute of Science.

Farmers, on the other hand, prefer uncontaminated silt and want the authorities to conduct tests to ensure they are safe. "They say the silt is free to be taken away and are distributing it without tests. In the past, the government gave us silt on subsidised rates from one of the lakes, but people had health problems when the untested silt was used," said a farmer from Varthur.

Lake warden Jagadish Reddy said Silt from these lakes made of organic carbons is usable for horticultural purpose. "That portion will be quantified once the lakes dry out," Reddy said.

"The whole portion of the silt could be given to the farmers after testing the quality of the organic matter by the competent authorities, the IISc reports (Bathymetry survey) by Prof T V Ramachandra and team already confirmed as non-toxic and already available in the public domain. If anyone got doubts can verify. If toxic substances are found, making the silt unfit for horticulture purposes, it may not be given to the farmers," he added. He also said the unqualified silt if any may require treatment before disposal.

Meanwhile, the Hegde panel has asked for an extension of the deadline to submit their report to the green tribunal. The panel had time until this month. After the NGT gives its nod, the planned rejuvenation works would begin.

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