‘Heavy metals in Bellandur lake samples above prescribed levels’

This was one of the findings of the National Green Tribunal-appointed committee to oversee the rejuvenation and protection of Agara, Bellandur and Varthur lakes

Silt and sludge samples collected from three out of five locations at Bellandur lake had heavy metal values above the prescribed levels and required to be disposed accordingly. This was one of the findings of the National Green Tribunal-appointed committee to oversee the rejuvenation and protection of Agara, Bellandur and Varthur lakes.

The committee, which submitted its synopsis report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in March, came down heavily on the Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) for failing to address the problem. “Even after continuous persuasion by the committee, quarries for dumping silt from both the lakes have not been identified so far by the Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban/BDA,” says the report.

A member of the committee told The Hindu that as heavy metal presence at Bellandur lake is above the prescribed limits, silt and sludge should be disposed as per Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016 and cannot be used for any agricultural purposes.

Though the samples were collected before the lockdown, after which many rivers and lakes reportedly saw a drop in pollution levels due to the closure of industries, environmental activists pointed out that even if Bellandur lake benefited from this, the relief is temporary.

The committee has observed that the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had identified 61 units around Bellandur and Varthur lakes that do not have Sewage Treatment Plants. It pointed out that an estimated ₹271.5 crore was to be recovered from these units.

The hunt for a quarry

Senior officials with the BDA said they were in the process of finalising quarries to dump silt. Earlier, the development authority had planned to provide silt free of cost to farmers and to the brick industry. “We have identified two quarries and will decide on them soon as the committee has noted that silt should be disposed of as per SWM Rules of 2016,” said a senior official.

The BDA has resumed preparations for desilting both Bellandur and Varthur lakes from the first week of May.

Randeep D., Special Commissioner (Solid Waste Management), BBMP, said that once the quarry is finalised, the BBMP will develop it in a scientific manner.

‘Monsoon will lead to further delays’

Jagadish Reddy, a resident of Varthur and a member of Bellandur and Varthur lakes’ rejuvenation initiative, said that the desilting process would take anywhere between 18 and 24 months. “The monsoon will arrive soon, and they will have to stop the work for a few months,” he said.

A.N. Yellappa Reddy of Bangalore Environment Trust said that no agency has studied the social and environmental impact of displacing such a massive amount of silt and sludge. “This is a huge exercise and we do not have the necessary infrastructure to take it forward,” he said.

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