Is it our fate to eat phosphate, ask residents

Is it our fate to eat phosphate, ask residents

Bengaluru’s tryst with clean water bodies seems to have long ended. The frothing Bellandur and Varthur lakes are a deadly concoction of phosphates, nitrates and myriad industrial pollutants combining to create a foamy lather. One cannot turn a blind eye to this ugly truth.

Bellandur lake once provided sustenance for people in the settlements adjoining it and the water here was used to irrigate fields of rice and vegetables. Today, however, the scenario is different as just the thought of having to bring home a bunch of vegetables grown on the periphery of the lake bed can send shivers down our spine.

Vegetables grown here are finding their way into the local markets and are being bought by unsuspecting customers. DH spoke to a few residents who expressed their concerns about greens.

Phosphate is not renewable and when the waste water that contains detergent enters the lake, it causes pollution. Neighbouring villages surrounding Bellandur lake use the same water for irrigation and agriculture. Therefore the vegetables grown there are metal-laden and poisonous.

Most retailers, however, feign ignorance about the irrigation methods and also the whereabouts of the actual farm lands from where they procure their vegetables for fear of losing their clients.

Pradeep, a retailer in Cambridge Layout, says that none of his vegetables is procured from Varthur or Bellandur as he prefers to buy from growers in Doddaballapur or has suppliers in the City market area. He says, “Most growers around Varthur and Bellandur lakes sell their produce in Whitefield and Madiwala but do not supply to either HAL market or City Market as these are saturated with growers who are old-timers.”

He says: “I have a moral duty towards my customers. Most retailers today refrain from buying produce from stray growers as they are unsure of the quality of the produce and do not wish to lose out on a regular clientele.”

Only a vigilant customer who asks questions and makes the right choices can survive in such a volatile situation. Kavita Jagadeesh, who lives in Defence Colony in Indiranagar, is one such customer who has always made enquiries before picking up her veggies as she puts her family’s health first.

She says: “Most of my vegetables are bought at Hopcoms which sources it from Lalbagh and I also prefer organic stores as they get their produce from stipulated farms either in Mysuru or Ooty.” Kavita has to sometimes wait for the organic vegetables that are sourced only twice a week but says that, “They are worth the wait.”

She is wary about buying greens sold by vendors as these reek of a strong stench often found near sewage gutters. “I don’t mind paying double the price for healthy vegetables,” she says.

Hema Narang, a resident of  100 ft Road Indiranagar, would once procure her weekly stocks from HAL market but ever since she observed vegetables being grown around lakes and suspected that they may be sold in the market area, she refrains from picking them up from unknown vendors.

She noticed the burgeoning pollution levels around the lake and now prefers to buy her stocks from a regular supplier who stops by near her apartment building or chooses organic vegetables.

If froth was a dangerous indication, there is more horror waiting. The frothy lake recently caught fire and is believed to have been triggered by chemicals and effluents released by industries in the vicinity. When people inhale this affected air that is infused with high amounts of phosphate, it affects their lungs, causing irritation and skin allergies that are common symptoms.

The valleys of Bengaluru are now conduits for sewage rather than irrigated water. Much of the estimated 500 million litres of sewage that reaches Bellandur lake daily is not treated. Until this anomaly is corrected, residents in the vicinity of the lakes feel they will be courting death.