Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Increasing pollution in the Upper Lake

The other day the Times of India reported the increasing pollution in Bhopal’s Upper Lake. It is choking with discarded plastic bags, bottles and other non-biodegradable waste. The Boat Club area is visited by hordes of people and they thoughtlessly leave behind waste unmindful of the consequences on the very water they might be drinking.

The Times of India’s “I lead India” campaigners have decided to clean up the 2 km stretch along the Boat Club as things have assumed serious proportions. This, however, will not help unless measures are undertaken to prevent pollution and cleaning it up on a regular continuing basis.

Apart from the wastes that are deposited every day by the visitors the Lake receives more than 140 tonnes of solid wastes in direct or indirect form. Limnologists, who have studied the quality of the water of the Lake, have now opined that its consumption is risky for humans. With so much of waste being pumped into the Lake, they fear, its waters will lose potability in (not too distant) future. If that happened it would be a serious setback to water availability in Bhopal 40% people of which are dependent on it for their water. Already, the researchers have found that aquatic life of the Lake has seriously been affected and a decline in its flora and fauna has been noticed.

The Municipal Corporation, the custodian of the Lake, has failed to take care of it. Over the last few years it had initiated crores-worth of projects to stop the inflow of solid wastes from drains that empty into the Lake but with remarkable failure. It banned the plying of motorised boats in the Lake years ago but has failed to implement it. No wonder, motorised boats and the cruise boat ply in the Lake regularly with impunity. One could hardly ever come across a more worthless civic body.

The mounting accumulation of filth and pollutants in the Boat Club area is a gift to the people of Bhopal from the minister of urban administration with whom the local Tourism Corporation admirably collaborated. Much against the well-accepted environmental norms they have, together, literally campaigned to get more visitors to the Boat Club area and consequently more filth pollutants in the Lake. Though they claim they were trying to get more tourists but the efforts resulted in hordes of local visitors landing up regularly at the Lake front only to pollute it. The minister went out of his way to get a vintage steam locomotive installed near the Lake along with a model of a naval warship to attract visitors. One wonders as to why he didn’t get an air force plane and a vintage omnibus for the Lake-side decor. The Tourism Corporation even organised functions at the Boat Club to get hundreds of people to witness the “tamashas” they staged even though a surfeit of venues is available in the town for holding such jamborees using the fig leaf of creating awareness among people for conservation of the water body.

Besides, with encouragement from the minister the Tourism Corporation created a massive amusement facility, “sair sapata” at Prempura close to the Important Bird Area of the Lake unmindful of the consequences on the Lake . Predictably, most of the migratory species have since given up the Upper Lake for roosting threatening the Wetland’s Ramsar status. (Birdlife International should take a note of It)The Ramsar organisation recognises a wetland as a Ramsar site only if it provides favourable conditions for domestic and migratory water fowl which the Upper Lake now fails to do.

The local government has been indulging in doublespeak. While claiming concern for the Upper Lake it has practically shelved all efforts towards its conservation. Even the development and conservation plan prepared at its instance by the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad has been kept under wraps till the next elections. The local people should realise that the Upper Lake and the Bhoj Wetland is under serious threat. I have been constantly writing about it for the last ten years or so. But there has been no change in the official attitude. The Bhoj Wetland Project – a 5-year project that ran for 9 years up to 2004 – achieved precious little. The advent of the new government in 2004 did not make a difference and, in fact, later it enhanced threats to the Lake. It should now be realised that soon the water body as we know it may cease to exist. It cannot be business as usual any more. The need of the hour is to arrange to have people’s pressure exerted on the government for effective action for conservation of the water body.
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