DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bhopal Notes :: 43 :: THE FOULED UP LAKE

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Its waters are dangerous to touch and risky to drink


Now it is official; the waters of the Upper Lake are not fit for bathing or even sipping – a ritual that is called “achaman” observed by Hindus after their prayers. The Locally based Pollution Control Board issued a warning for the people who were to perform their rituals on the banks of the Lake on the occasion of Chhath Puja that was to take place last Sunday. The Chhath festival is dedicated to the Sun and his consort Usha to thank them for the bounties bestowed on people. Celebrated generally by people of Bihar, it has now almost become a national festival as the Bihari Diaspora is present virtually in all states.


The Pollution Control Board said while exposure of the skin to the waters could cause skin diseases, especially eczema, ingesting it would be more dangerous as the e-coli count is almost double the level far higher than what can be tolerated by normal humans. This had to happen as the powers that be, including those in the Department of Environment and the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, have never bothered to divert sewage and other pollutants that make their way to the Lake through as many as nine drains. They have had project after project but the situation has not changed. Perhaps the conditions have worsened. No wonder the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) has predicted if action is not taken on its plans for the Lake submitted as far as back as in 2013 the Lake most likely would disappear in 20 years.


On the one hand the Tourism Development Corporation has, seemingly, acquired proprietary rights over it and pushing projects one after another without any regard to their impact on the Lake. While the Boat Club has become the hub for people to come and collect in large numbers, boating has gone up exponentially. One shudders to see so many motorised boats plying on the Lake that is a source of drinking water. In no civilized country a drinking water source is used in such a casual manner as in Bhopal. The Tourism Corporation may have improved its own bottom line by putting motor boats in the waters of the Lake in contravention of the prevailing ban but it has brought the Lake into red. There are other lakes like those at Shahpura or the Lower Lake where the motor-boating could be diverted but no, every activity has to be undertaken at the Upper Lake This is not counting the Sair Sapata, the huge amusement park that has come in Prempura, again, on the banks of the Lake The outfit was bad in concept and has been bad in its effect on the Lake. As is understood, the CEPT has recommended in its report a shift for the tourism unit from its present location.


While the MP State Tourism Department has played havoc with the Upper Lake the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, supposedly its custodian, has played no mean role in its progressive degradation. It has been attempting everything to improve its appearance by way of cosmetic changes but it has never formulated a project to block the nine drains that bring millions of litres of sewage into the Lake. The responsibility of maintaining a reasonable water quality is that of the Corporation and the obligation of supplying water to the consumers is also of the local body. That, in effect, results in the local body supplying poison to the citizens of the town who get the Lake waters from the Corporation pipe lines. Nobody seems to be bothered – neither the Municipal Corporation nor the state government – the losers in the process are the people. What is not even funny is that every instrument of the state is in place with all the necessary kinds of resources and yet it is the people who get the rawest of deals.

In addition, the farmers in its catchments that fall in the neighbouring district are not bothered about the effects of their chemical farming on the Lake. They merrily use chemical fertilisers and pesticides remanants of which flow into the Lake polluting it further. While the government has created an organic farming zone, it never considered the catchments of this Lake for converting into an organic farming zone. This was taken up years ago with the government by the Bhopal Citizens' Forum but to no avail. 


One wonders whether the authorities in the government or in the Corporation will take the findings of the local Pollution Control Board seriously enough and initiate remedial measure in double quick time. None can, however, be sure as we have observed utmost indifference to the water body despite claiming it as the identity of the city. The latest in this chain is the governments’ unshakable perch on the CEPT report that promised improved days (and water) for the Lake


 

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