Choked to death

Down to Earth - - URBAN LAKES -

(Au­tono­mus) Col­lege,Bhopal,who reg­u­larly analy­ses the lake wa­ter,had also found high lev­els of ni­trates, phos­phates and co­l­iform bac­te­ria,in­di­cat­ing sewage con­tam­i­na­tion.

bmc plans to re­move the pol­lu­tants and re­vive the lake in two phases by spend­ing a whop­ping 12 crore.In the first phase,it will clean the lake and in­stall struc­tures such as metal mesh to pre­vent fur­ther pol­lu­tion.The sec­ond phase in­volves con­ser­va­tion and main­te­nance of the lake and its sur­round­ing ar­eas.bmc plans to de­velop the lake as a tourist cen­tre.The state’s Ur­ban Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Devel­op­ment Depart­ment (uadd) has sanc­tioned 4 crore to bmc for restora­tion of the lake, says Pravin Bhag­wat, state co­or­di­na­tor,uadd.Anal­y­sis of the restora­tion plan, which bmc sub­mit­ted to ngt in Septem­ber 2014,shows it is not ad­e­quate to keep the lake clean.

The lake’s sur­round­ing res­i­den­tial area, also called New Bhopal,has a 108 km long sewer line with six pump­ing sta­tions and two sewage treat­ment plants (stps). But th­ese are in­ad­e­quate to han­dle the waste­water gen­er­ated by the ever-ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion of the area. The sew­er­age sys­tem is 40 years old and is crum­bling. The biofil­ter plants at the stps do not func­tion prop­erly.Treated ef­flu­ent from the stps are dis­charged into nearby drains that pass through densely pop­u­lated slums, car­ry­ing un­treated sewage,be­fore join­ing the lake.

In 2008-09, Savita Dixit, chem­istry pro­fes­sor at Maulana Azad Na­tional In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, Bhopal, found high con­cen­tra­tion of heavy met­als like cop­per, chromium, lead, cad­mium and man­ganese in the lake wa­ter.She has linked it to idol im­mer­sion.

Since the lake is used for pis­ci­cul­ture and ir­ri­ga­tion, re­searchers say the heavy met­als may have en­tered the food chain.

To check the con­tam­i­na­tion from idol im­mer­sion, bmc’s lake restora­tion plan sug­gests cre­at­ing sep­a­rate struc­tures away from the lake.To pre­vent sewage wa­ter con­tami- Ground­wa­ter ex­trac­tion na­tion, the plan sug­gests set­ting up more stps and in­ter­cept­ing all drains join­ing Shah­pura lake and car­ry­ing the sewage wa­ter to stps for treat­ment.

Re­searchers say stps may fail to han­dle the waste­water load gen­er­ated by the ur­ban sprawl of New Bhopal.Kataria sug­gests that bmc must in­tro­duce de­cen­tralised treat­ment tech­niques at all the drains join­ing the lake. Th­ese tech­niques in­clude sim­ple bi­o­log­i­cal pro­cesses in­volv­ing mi­crobes,he adds.

Such mea­sures will go a long way in pre­vent­ing ground­wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion, which does not find a men­tion in bmc’s plan.

Pol­luted lake wa­ter has al­ready con­tam­i­nated ground­wa­ter around the lake.Kataria’s analy­ses show that the lev­els of ni­trate and phos­phate in the ground­wa­ter are at least dou­ble the limit pre­scribed by who for drink­ing wa­ter. His col­league Sonal Trivedi also found fae­cal co­l­iform in the ground­wa­ter around the lake.

Sanjeev Shekhar Roy,chief chemist with bodhi, says about 90,000 peo­ple de­pend on the ground­wa­ter pumped from ar­eas around the lake.Tankers reg­u­larly tap tube­wells lo­cated near the lake to sup­ply drink­ing wa­ter to Chun­ab­hatti and other ar­eas. Since wa­ter tainted with fae­cal co­l­iform can­not be treated,peo­ple should avoid us­ing con­tam­i­nated tube­wells, says Kataria. Roy says bodhi had worked with re­searchers to im­ple­ment de­cen­tralised waste­water treat­ment tech­niques around the lake on a pi­lot ba­sis. He has seen con­sid­er­able change in the qual­ity of wa­ter in the shal­low wells dug in the vicin­ity of the lakes fol­low­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pi­lot projects.

Fol­low­ing bmc’s ini­tial restora­tion work,the lake now ap­pears clean. But there are still con­cerns about its wa­ter qual­ity, says Ab­hi­jeet Sa­boo, ur­ban plan­ner, study­ing lakes of Bhopal.

Saswat Band­hy­opad­hyay, head of the depart­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal plan­ning, Cen­tre for En­vi­ron­men­tal Plan­ning and Tech­nol­ogy Uni­ver­sity (cept), says bmc should be care­ful while im­ple­ment­ing con­ser­va­tion mea­sures. It should not con­cen­trate on ar­chi­tec­tural and or­na­men­tal steps but should fo­cus on re­viv­ing the qual­ity of lake wa­ter. Band­hy­opad­hyay is the key per­son in­volved in pre­par­ing a restora­tion plan for the Up­per Lake.Dixit adds that pe­ri­od­i­cal mon­i­tor­ing of the lake wa­ter qual­ity and in­fra­struc­ture is im­por­tant. bmc should in­clude th­ese in its lake restora­tion plan.

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