Bengaluru, April 20: On Wednesday, The National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered the Karnataka government to shut down all industrial units near the highly polluted Bellandur Lake immediately. Also, penalty of Rs.5 Lakhs would be imposed on anyone dumping waste in and around the water body. NGT has also asked the government to clean up the lake within a month.The order follows months of protests by citizen groups for immediate government action to clean up the lake, one of Bengaluru’s largest and an eyesore for people living in the neighborhood and those crossing it.
The tribunal held the chiefs of the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA), Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) and Urban Development Department “personally responsible” for implementing its orders.
The instructions were issued by a bench headed by the National Green Tribunal Chairperson, Justice Swatanter Kumar. The NGT orders came a day after the tribunal, hearing about the toxic foam on Bellandur, pulled up the Karnataka government for its apathy in letting untreated sewage flow into the lake.
Citizen groups are doubtful if the authorities have the political will to implement the orders. Kshitij Urs, professor of public policy law at National Law School and a member of a people’s campaign for the right to water, noted that many earlier orders had not been adhered to by the authorities, inviting contempt charges.
The state government is looking to float a tender worth several thousand Crores to rejuvenate the lake, which environmentalists say could be the main intention behind official apathy towards the lake.
The nearly 800-acre lake, which was in the 1970s a source of drinking water and irrigation for surrounding villages, has now become an outlet for sewage drains from nearby residences, apartment complexes, commercial and industrial establishment, making it frothy and toxic. According to submissions by the Karnataka civic authorities, nearly 500 MLD (million liters per day) of sewage water is discharged into the lake. Bengaluru has already lost 58% of its wetlands area and many experts believe that the levels of pollution and water crisis will eventually make Bengaluru uninhabitable in 25 years.