Garbage, sewage and construction debris are eating up Bengaluru’s Chunchaghatta lake situated in the Konankunte ward, adjacent to Eshwar Layout in southern JP Nagar. A Citizen Matters inquiry has become a wake-up call to the authorities this month, but it remains to be seen what happens next. According to according to BBMP records, the lake is spread over 14 acres.
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Birds flocking the lake despite garbage and construction debris being dumped. Pic: Yogaraj S Mudalgi
Sujatha, 39, a domestic worker, lives on the banks of the lake, says that she has tried telling her neighbours to not dump their garbage in the lake but was instead met with ‘what business is it of yours’ response. "Neighbours also pick fights with me when I try to tell them. So I have stopped telling them anything", says Sujatha.
Another resident, Manjula says that BBMP does not collect garbage because there are no tar roads on that street. The lake lacks any fencing and although the BBMP does not collect the waste door to door, garbage trucks use one side of the bank as a collection centre; yet, residents all around the lake dump the garbage in the lake. BBMP contractors’ garbage trucks too dump some of the garbage in to the lake.
The lake has natural islands and wetland areas with hundreds of birds but is a sight of mixed spectacles as one cannot but ignore the heaps of garbage and construction debris polluting the lake.
Murli (name changed on request), who lives in the neighbourhood says that adding to the garbage woes, private contractors have been dumping construction debris for over a year. "A lot of the lake area has been lost dues to the indiscriminate dumping. Ward councilor has ignored pleas to take any action."
He adds that the lake is slowly being filled up and when residents confront the contractors dumping the debris, they say that it is being dumped with the consent of the ward councilor.
When Citizen Matters contacted Shashirekha Jayaram, councilor of Konankunte, in whose ward the lake falls in, over the phone, her husband Jayaram insisted he speak for her. He says that the lake is now under BDA custody and they will call for tenders to undertake the development of the lake and the dumping of debris will be looked in to and denies giving any permission to dump debris.
In the absence of any water supply from BWSSB, the residents draw their water from bore wells not realising that the pollution might one day choke the only source of water supply available to them. Sujatha says, "Life becomes difficult if we keep thinking about all these things. If only I stop dumping garbage it does not make a difference so even I don’t bother about it now and continue to dump my garbage there."
Another cause of pollution of the lake is the residents on the south bank letting their sewerage directly in to the lake as there are no drainage connections present. A BBMP official who was inspecting the lake at the same time as this reporter said that there is litigation against the residents on the south bank for encroachment and might be the reason for lack of any drainage connections or pukka roads.
The lakeside is a transfer point for garbage from smaller vehicles to BBMP garbage vans. This creates a mess right behind the signboard prohibiting encroachment and dumping of garbage. Pic: Yogaraj S Mudalgi
The residents nearby also refer to rumours about a storm water drain being built on the north of the lake that connects to Sarakki Lake to drain Chunchaghatta Lake. B Jagadish, who lives on the bank that is a part of the encroachment says that "once the lake is drained, the dry bed might be used for making a bus stand." However, Surya Narayana, Bommanhalli Zone BBMP executive engineer in charge of storm water drains clarifies that the storm water drain is not being built to drain the lake. But to channel excess water during monsoon to the Sarakki Lake, situated downstream.
The official said they were inspecting the lake at the directions of Chief Engineer of Lakes B V Sathish as he had received word of the lake contamination and was concerned about it.
He later said over the phone that it was unclear if the case has been transferred to the BDA by the Forest Department. "Even though the lake is not in BBMP custody, we can inspect it and will be submitting a report to both the BBMP and BDA commissioners bringing the situation of the lake to their attention. It is up to the respective department in whose custody it is to take action", he said. The concerned official from Karnataka Forest Department was unavailable for clarification.
On 23rd February, at the time of publishing this article, BDA had sent surveyors to the lake and write a report to take further action. ⊕