|Upper Lake, Bhopal|
What has now been reported had to happen sooner or later. It has, in fact, happened sooner than later. The local daily reported yesterday that dead fish were found floating near the Boat Club on the Upper Lake. Obviously the pollution of the lake waters has attained such levels that its oxygen content has ebbed like, perhaps, never before killing off the marine mammals. With rains still far off and the lake losing its waters due to usual offtake for supplies and rising rate of evaporation in the sustained heat of 42+ degrees Centigrade the pollution level of the waters has gone up with sewage and other drains flowing into it with their normal intensity. No wonder the fish have become a casualty. None, however, knows which other mammals or organisms of the bio-diverse lake have packed off.
Those who are caretakers of this millennium old largest man-made lake in the country are more concerned about the visitors to the lake-front. They are, therefore, busy in providing greater attractions as also amenities for them. Undertaking construction, they are building view points for people to come and admire the immense natural beauty of the Lake further beautified by large unmatched jets. Only if they had a similar concern for the quality of its waters which are used for drinking purposes by a substantial numbers of citizens and others like us would have had no reason to complain.
They, unfortunately, showed no such concern. It has been more than 12 years since the Bhoj Wetland Project financed by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency ran its extended course of ten years and was terminated. The unspent money of the project was used in constructing physical assets like an auditorium, an Interpretation Centre etc. but no money was spent on blocking the sewers and sundry drains that bring sullage and sewage to the Lake. In the intervening 12 years they could not check these pernicious flows and install the required number of sewage treatment plants and run them efficiently. Eight to nine of such drains continue to dump millions of litres of sewage into the Lake. No wonder, the fish are dying – perhaps other organisms too are dying. Not many can survive consuming plain and raw sewage. One does not know what the condition of the birds is, the ones that roost nearabout the Lake. Most, for the presence of whom in large numbers the Wetland was designated a Ramsar Site, had deserted the Upper Lake long ago, anyway; they find neighbouring water bodies far more congenial and hospitable than this one which once used to be their haunt for years, maybe decades and centuries.
Three researchers of universities located in the state had prognosticated that the lake would not remain useful in another eighty years if its maintenance continues in the manner it is being carried out currently. The Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), Ahmedabad, which the government of Madhya Pradesh had engaged for suggesting measures for conservation of the Upper Lake, had recently stated that the Lake would not remain useful in twenty years’ time unless measures to protect and conserve it were commenced right away. The report of the CEPT has been gathering dust for around four years now for reasons known to the government. The government has neither released it for public information nor has it taken action on its recommendations. Perhaps its recommendations to stop constructions on the banks of the Lake and its catchments did not appeal to the political masters and the construction lobby. There seems to be a stalemate as even the National Green Tribunal could only have a look at the CEPT report but could not have it released for public comments. It is a strange irony that public has been denied access to a report that was prepared after extensive studies by an expert body at public expense.
I distinctly recall a meeting a few years ago with this very chief minister with members Bhopal Citizens’ Forum. Even then, as today, conservation of the Upper Lake was a big issue. During the course of the conversation he had categorically said that as long as he was there (at the helm) he would not allow the lake to be harmed. It is the same chief minister who has been (fraudulently) promoting conservation of River Narmada even as illegal sand mining continues on it but has allowed the reputed lifeline of the people of Bhopal to come to the brink of its demise. If anybody or any organization is responsible for the current deplorable condition of the Lake which is peddled for tourism in Bhopal, it is none other than the Madhya Pradesh government along with the Bhopal Municipal Corporation which would be culpable and need to be indicted. It is these that are trying to kill this very vital asset of the people of Bhopal