Filthy lake forces turtles to flee

Reptiles end up being run over by speeding vehicles, poached

The highly-contaminated Subramanyapura Lake in the City is forcing flat-shelled turtles onto the roads, but the authorities do not seem to be bothered.

Prasanna Kumar, a wildlife volunteer, with the  flat-shelled turtle.

The creatures are ending up either in the hands of poachers or on the plates of foodies. A few others are being crushed under the wheels of speeding vehicles.

So long as the lake had pristine water, turtles thrived there, but not any more.

But contamination of the water body has made the reptiles flee their natural habitat. The lake is choked due to untreated sewage flowing into it from the nearby apartments, weeds and encroachment of the tank bed.

To make matters worse, BBMP contractors have converted it into an illegal landfill by dumping truckloads of filth into it. Some local residents are said to be picking up turtles moving on the roads, cooking them and feasting on them.

One such turtle was spotted by this reporter, who handed it over to the BBMP wildlife division, so that it can be rehabilitated in a safe place.

Prasanna Kumar, a volunteer of the BBMP wildlife division, who took custody of the turtle, said, “We have rescued many flat-shelled turtles fleeing from lakes in Bangalore South.

These creatures are very sensitive and cannot move on rough surface.” He said the flat-shelled turtles exhibit some rare qualities: Though they live in fresh water, they can survive in water less polluted too. Due to the high contamination of water, the turtles may be migrating, said Kumar.

Ramachandra, a biologist, said the flat-shelled turtles fall under Schedule-1 (part-3) category of the Wildlife Protection Act, which means they are among the most endangered species.

Local residents had lodged several complaints with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), appealing to them to protect the lake, but to no avail.

Uttarahalli corporator Ramesh Raju blamed the BBMP, BDA, BWSSB and KSPCB for the poor condition of Subramanyapura Lake.

“For the last three years, I have been struggling to prevent contamination of the lake and encroachment of the major stormwater drain, which is the catchment area for the water body.

The officials seem to be in a deep slumber as several representations to them did not yield any result. I provided photographs and details of the apartments which are polluting the lake, but the authorities are turning a blind eye to the problem,” said Raju.

Phanisai Bharadwaj, a local activist, has described the migration of turtles as a wake-up call, necessitating action by the department of environment and forests and the BDA to save the lake.

He said, “A special budgetary provision should be made to protect not only Subramanyapura Lake, but also other water bodies across Bangalore. If the government is unable to conserve them, it should consider handing over the lakes to the residents' welfare associations.”

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