Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pollution Control Board reacts to ToI report on Upper Lake

After Times of India published the other day that photograph of filth and discarded plastic on the shore of the Upper Lake near the Boat Club one found for the first time the local Pollution Control Board (PCB) reacting in print in the shape of a write-up authored by its superintending engineer. It urged the youth to “blot out bane of Upper Lake”

While articulating a few truisms he said that “ban on non-biodegradable polythene at the Boat Club is the need of the hour… as that was the only way out to save our scarce and priceless water sources”. He further said “ever since the Lake became the centre of attraction for tourists from Bhopal and outside they come in droves and leave behind lots of plastic waste including polythene bags. Hotels, restaurants and road-side kiosks lining the stretch of road along the Upper Lake … add to the problem”.

The environmentally sensitive people of Bhopal must be grateful to the engineer as the write-up indicates that the PCB is aware of the problem. But nothing has been mentioned about what it is going to do about the problem. He has only indulged in exhortations without realizing that the days for such inanities are, sadly, long past. What is needed is action, and more of it That the PCB has certain responsibilities to protect the environment and wetlands, especially the one in Bhopal which, he admits, “is a major source of drinking water for the better part of the city” find no mention.

One, therefore, feels that it needs to be told a few home truths. In the matter relating to conservation of this important water body there have been a series acts of omissions on its part. These are:

-        The engineer has not mentioned that whether the Board has ever strongly recommended to the state government to ban the use of polythene bags, more specifically near important water bodies

-        It never advised the MP State Tourism Development Corporation not to encourage assembly of large crowds near the Lake

-        The Pollution Control Board never prevented opening and establishment of eateries on the Lake View road though it must have been aware that such eateries are a strict no-no near a wetland, more so, near a drinking water source.

-        It never stopped the plying of motorised boats on this Lake though it is aware such boats pollute the Lake. It even cleared years ago plying of a floating restaurant on it which defied all logic. Like advising the youth against the use of polythene bags it has not even suggested to them not to go for rides on motor boats.

-        Failing to initially advise the government not to make it a hub of local tourism it never seems to have ever protested against installations of specimens of locomotive and a naval warship on the Lake shore to attract more visitors.

-        While there may be some other failures what were more glaring were its inability to prevent increasing human activity near the Important Bird Area of the Wetland by permitting establishment of National Institute of Sports and Sair Sapata outfits close to the Lake. It cannot deny that it is aware of the fact that a wetland is affected most by what happens in its catchments. These developments predictably resulted in shrinking numbers of migratory birds. The Lake had been recognized as a Ramsar Site only because birds from far away countries used to fly in in large numbers to roost.

In view of the above the PCB can be held to be largely, if not wholly, responsible for the current degraded condition of the Upper Lake. If, however, it had made suitable recommendations to the government in regard to these matters and its advice was not acted upon let it place the facts before the people to enable them to know who precisely is or are responsible for pollution of this vital water body.
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