Citizens' fight to save Bellandur lake

Citizens' fight to save Bellandur lake

We speak about evolution being a good process. The kind th-at is natural, often is. However, the way our cities are evolving is scary, to say the least. Under the guise of development and progress, our cities and their natural environs are dying. Bengaluru is the unfortunate poster child for this phenomenon. And the City’s biggest lake, Bellandur, is its biggest environmental crisis.

The Bellandur lake spans 900 acres in the heart of Bengaluru. It is surrounded by tall office buildings belonging to some of the biggest names in the global IT market. Bellandur was a pretty sight a couple of decades back. Fishermen made their livelihood from its plentiful aquatic life. Children went swimming in its pristine waters. Families enjoyed evenings by the lovely lakeshore. Today, Bellandur is barely a lake.

Under a relentless barrage of sewage and industrial waste being dumped into it every single day, Bellandur has become a cesspit of sludge – foaming, frothing and even spontaneously catching fire. It is a veritable symbol of Bengaluru’s slow death.

For the last couple of years, I have been living in one of the many apartment complexes beside the lake. Every time I passed by the lake, I felt deeply saddened, angry, ashamed and helpless at the same time.

I had seen multiple protests staged and several complaints filed by my neighbours, but nothing had changed. Then one day, I mustered the courage to do something about it; I decided to be the change I wanted to see and not waste another day cribbing.

I come from a generation that believes in the power of the Internet. I decided to reach out to the government via an online petition on Change.org (www.change.org/bellandurlake). I was surprised and humbled to see around 20,000 people coming forward and signing the petition. It made me believe that as busy as people might be with their own lives, some still care and are ready to fight for the things that are unacceptable.

With so much enthusiasm and encouragement around, I decided to start a Facebook group – Save Bellandur, Save Bengaluru – which has around 4,000 active members now.

In this highly active community, we now discuss plans and solutions to save the lake. Over the course of our discussions, I learned that people living around the lake have been fighting for it for almost 20 years, approaching government officials, taking out demonstrations and fighting court cases to stop the dumping of sewage into the lake.

Passing the buck
Bureaucracy in India has always been a tough obstacle but in this case it had been taken to limits, with a web of governmental bodies like the BDA, BWSSB, KSPCB, BBMP and LDA passing the buck among themselves in an endless loop.

So, we all got together and went to meet almost every concerned authority with our request. But we were always unceremoniously shown the door. Then, finally, we took to Twitter, posting a tweet a day on the chief minister’s handle. After nine days he replied to them promising action.

Following this development, the authorities came out with farcical schemes to install sprinklers and cover the lakeside with 20-feet mesh nets to hide the atrocities behind. By this point, it was becoming obvious that there was an entire network of powerful parties who did not want to give up access to their cheap dumping ground so easily.

But, we have not lost hope. We have not stopped fighting. We are reaching out to the people of all the nearby villages, many of whom narrate the tale of how there has been a sharp rise in respiratory and health problems in the last few years.

Almost all of this can be traced back to the rampant pollution and the suffocating stench emanating from the lake. There are more than 50 lakes in Bengaluru which are interconnected and pollution in one will ultimately seep into all the others. 

We have also had Namma Bengaluru Foundation reach out to us, pledging to help us in our fight to Save Bellandur, Save Bengaluru. This is a people’s movement and many from around the world are coming forward to raise their voice against the authorities’ apathy towards the City’s environment.

We are also reaching out to activists and organisations for help. We are prepared for a long and hard fight ahead. We are confident that we will regain the lost identity of the City of lakes. Together, we believe, we shall win!

(The writer is a Bengaluru-based IT professional)
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