With the problem of smart city behind us, we will have to concentrate on other vital issues of citizens. However, we cannot consider ourselves absolutely free from the problems that may crop up at the new site of the smart city. Here, too, there are reported to be more than a thousand trees. These cannot be allowed to be cut down unless absolutely necessary, with emphasis on “absolutely”. People will have to see how many of them can be saved. If I recall, there are trees that are huge and, apparently, pretty old. These cannot be sacrificed at the altar of the smart city. Perhaps, another battle in this regard is awaiting us; the powder has to be kept dry.
One major nagging issue of concern is the Upper Lake and its proper upkeep. The custodian of the Upper Lake, Bhopal Municipal Corporation has been rather self-willed and, shall we say, mischievous. Despite the orders of the National Green Tribunal it has been tinkering with the Khanugaon-side shore of the Lake. I have myself had occasion to see a wall being erected and some digging along the length of what is known as the View Point. It will be recalled that the Corporation had formulated plans to construct a pedestrian and a cycle track next to the Lake. The Green Tribunal ordered stoppage of the construction. But the Corporation seems to have been carrying on its activities without let or hindrance, unseen and unchecked by anybody. It is nothing but a mischievous activity.
Besides, the other day the People’s Samachar reported that the Corporation itself is polluting the Lake. It reported that the toilet facilities provided by it at the Boat Club empties its wastes directly into the Lake. This toilet was built because of the absence of one at a place where thousands congregate. A noble idea, but one cannot put up with the toilet emptying itself into the Lake. The question is whether permission of NGT was obtained before construction. And, surprisingly it never occurred to the cell in the Corporation dealing with conservation of the Lake to put its foot down on the proposal.
Thus the Corporation has added another drain to the nine that are emptying into the lake. There is no movement in the Corporation to divert the drains to the sewage recycling plants but it is ever keen to initiate construction work on and around the Lake front. The employees are so greedy; any civil work fetches them some extra (ill-gotten) money. The newspaper report mentions the findings of the Central Pollution Control Board in which it seems to have been stated that around 24 crore 50 lakh litres of sewage go into the Lake without being treated. Apparently only 40 mld can be treated every day and the rest amounting to 285 mld are getting into the Lake.
The paper reports that under the Bhoj Wetland project four sewage treatment plants were established out of which only one is functional. The rest of the three plants discharge sewage into the Lake without being treated. No proposal to set right the non-functional treatment plants has ever been reported. This is nothing but playing around with the health and well-being of the people who consume the water supplied from the Lake. I had once suggested at the Bhopal Citizens’ Forum meeting that the Corporation should not be allowed to carry out any new civil work, unless specifically asked to by NGT or the government, in and around the Lake until it plans and works to stop flow of sewage into it. Perhaps our representative could put the suggestion across to the NGT at the time of the next hearing in connection with the upkeep of the Lake.
The other water bodies too in the city are suffering because of the neglect of the municipal body. Several drains empty sewage into even in the Lower Lake. Having failed to stop their flow into the Lake for years on end the Corporation built a laser auditorium on its bank and when it proved to be a loss making proposition it promptly thought of shifting the whole thing to the Boat Club. Curiously, there is no check in the Corporation on its imprudent expenditure and it thus freely wastes public money.
I recall once an ex- municipal commissioner of Bhopal had described the Shahpura Lake as a septic tank. That was years ago and there has hardly been any change in its status since then. It continues to be saturated with sewage. Under the NGT”S directions some measures were taken but all that seems to have lost steam. Now even the Motia Talab seems to have been getting sewage from a source that was not revealed in the news report.
The bare fact is that though the government, the Corporation and all and sundry keep shouting about the lakes that are supposedly the city’s identity they are all, in fact, sewage pits – some big and some small. Shamelessly, they are inviting people to “the City of lakes” which , in fact, is a city of filthy lakes. This has to change and Bhopal Citizens’ Forum can have this change effected.
*Photo from internet