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Though we always hear about how polluted our oceans, lakes and seas are, it is rare to witness the contamination without at least wading into the waters. However, such is not the case for the residents that live in the vicinity of Bangalore's largest body of water - Lake Bellandur. They get to both witness and experience the toxic effects of the pollution that spews out in the form of fluffy white foam, every single day of the year!
The surf, which has transformed the "City of Thousand Lakes" to the "City of Thousand Sewage Tanks" is caused by the high concentration of ammonia and phosphates in the water. It is a result of several years of careless dumping of chemical waste and raw sewage into the thousands of waterways constructed to aid irrigation and bring drinking water to this landlocked area. While the entire water stream is polluted, it is Bellandur Lake that bears the brunt because of its location at the end of the chain of lakes and canal system.
The foul-smelling foam's toxic effects range from skin rashes to eye irritations, headaches, and dizziness. It is also a nuisance, especially during rainy and windy days, when it floats onto nearby roadways, impairing visibility.
Experts say that the lake receives approximately 130 million gallons of untreated or only partially treated sewage per day, far more than it can filter naturally. The build-up of the toxic sludge now measures a whopping 17.5 feet, far outweighing the lake's 2.5-feet of water.
Though the lake's condition has been deteriorating for many years, 2015 has been particularly bad. In May, the lake made international headlines when the high concentration of flammable chemicals in the water caught fire and burned for an entire night. According to experts, the fire has made things even worse for this poor lake because it destroyed nearby wetlands that had previously helped to filter some of the lake's pollution.
While a sewage treatment plant could resolve a majority of the lake's woes, local authorities claim they do not have $156 million USD it would take to build one. Fed up with the Indian government's reluctance to act, the residents of Bangalore now plan to take things into their own hands.
On October 12th, numerous organizations came together to strategize ways to solve this increasingly alarming issue. One idea that is gaining traction is to breach the gates and drain the polluted lake. The group leaders now plan to meet with all the residents that will be affected by the action. If a consensus is reached, Lake Bellandur and its toxic fumes will soon be just an unpleasant memory.
Resources: thehindu.com,wn.com,bbc.com, guardian.com, latimes.com