Field visit of Bellandur lake – ‘Why are Bangalore’s lakes foaming?’

Bellandur Lake – Field Visit

Our visit to the lake was spread over two days, Oct 21st and Oct 22nd, 2015, to understand what the people who live near the lake understand about the frothing issue. The first day, we walked from the Bellandur bus stop through the busy (with motor vehicles) Outer Ring Road and equally busy (with a mix people and vehicles) Lake Road.

Location of Bellandur Lake in Bangalore City

Image 1: Location of Bellandur Lake in Bangalore City

Map showing the corresponding site locations as mentioned in the narration

Image 2: Map showing the corresponding site locations as mentioned in the narration

Location 1: Our first encounter of the lake was an outlet canal running southwards towards Varthur Lake. As we walked past the bridge above this outlet canal we came face to face with the white water due to foaming. This foam however looked milky white from far away and hence was romantic with its snowy look. But once we moved close to it, we were repelled by the smell and the need to protect ourselves from the flying foam. This moment reminded us of the warning issued in various newspapers that the water and the foam were extremely hazardous. Another strange sight was that the canal bank and the bridge that had turned black. This could be due to the burning of the foam and their continuous exposure to the foam.

View of the Outlet from the bridge with foaming water  

Image 3: View of the Outlet from the bridge with foaming water (On the right: Blackened bund wall)

Location 2: There is a traditional worship area on the bund below two large trees, which we encountered after crossing the road. The road that connects Outer Ring Road and HAL road is exactly on the bund of the Bellandur Lake. On the other side of the road (opposite to the bridge and even the worship spot), you can spot a huge residential development (named Lake View). We are unsure if the foaming issue has had any impact on the real estate market.

worship area                 

residential development

Images 4 and 5: The Worship area and the residential development (On the right: the canal)

Foaming on the slop

Image 6: Foaming on the slope of the outlet

Further, we noticed that the foam formed after the slope and had not formed where the water was still in the lake. The water in the lake was not foaming, however the water was turbid and black. Hence we felt that the foaming of the lake was not an accurate statement; the issue is better described as foaming in the outlets of the lake.

Location 3: On walking further on the road, we came across a temporary settlement of migrant labourers, mostly from Bihar. They were working in a new development coming up, and we saw that the settlement was made by filling a trench. Further filling was happening on the other side of the road. The labourers had said that the lake had ‘ganda pani’ (dirty water) and could not be used for any domestic purposes. They got water from tankers and were satisfied with that supply. This was the end of the first day trip, as it had already become dark. The next day we started from the settlement and found some residents from the settlement who informed us that this was a serene view of the lake and they had seen two girls taking pictures of the lake. However they were not much worried about the lake since they were new to the place and thought that the sewage from all over city came and fell into the lake.

Location 4: On walking further we came across a teenage boy (Ravi) from Yamlur who was collecting vegetation from the fringes of the lake using a small boat. When asked about the lake, he insisted that the lake is not too hazardous since he had been collecting vegetation daily and it had not harmed him. He stated that the vegatation was used as feed for his cows and the cows had no strange reactions after  eating the vegetation. The boy insisted that he could not stop the collection since it was his livelihood. He further stated that the newspaper reports were hyped. Meanwhile his father also joined him and asked him to speed up since it was getting late. The boy’s father was also sceptical about the reports in the newspapers and not concerned about using vegetation from the lake while the water was foaming in the outlets of the lake. Meanwhile, an old man also came to speak with us on his own accord, claiming to live just across the river. He said he owned some goat, chicken, etc. He said that his uncle had moved to Yamlur from Chennai (then Madras) in the 1950s to benefit from the prosperous Bellandur lake. He felt that the lake was the source of livelihood for many not only in the past but continued to be so. All these local residents and dependants of the lake along with a passerby confirmed that the lake continued to have a thriving aquatic life, particularly fishes which were captured fortnightly. 

Vegetation extraction       

Boy with his single bunch

Image 7: Vegetation extraction         Image 8: The boy with his single bunch

This reminded us of a news article that the locals were now hesitant to consume the fish; rating the fishes from the lake as poisonous.

Location 5: On walking further we found a tender coconut vendor in an isolated locality. He had moved recently from Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu and owned an oldpaper business just behind his vending spot while carrying on coconut vending as an additional business. In the same premises where he runs his business, there was a new construction for a bar which would be owned by another owner from the locality. The tender coconut vendor also owns a water tanker which depended upon the water extracted from a tube well. The vendor was also dependent on this water supply for his domestic uses (except for drinking). He claimed that he didn’t have any problem with the water and found it to be clean (in spite of the tube well being very close to the lake – minimum of just 10 feet). However he was more concerned about the foaming on rainy and windy days since the foam got carried away and though it felt as if it was snowing, it was actually unsafe. He said that the foam was carried from the northward outlet canal which was nearby (beneath the bridge before Yamlur) and spread all over the area affecting the daily routine of the residents and the commuters. The lake road was said to be one of the busiest stretch connecting the HAL road with Outer Ring road in Bellandur. He was also aware that the water went to the Krishnagiri reservoir through outlet canals and said that he had witnessed the water in that reservoir and claimed it looked dirty but not as much as Bellandur’s. He was also satisfied with the fact that his native town would not be affected by this polluted water since they used cauvery water from Hogenekkal and ground water.

Outlet northwards near yamlur        

Foaming after the slope

Image 9 : Outlet (northwards) near Yamlur   Image 10: Foaming after the slope (beneath the bridge)

Location 6: On further moving north of the road, we reached another outlet (northwards) where the water sloped below the bridge and foamed after the fall of the water into the outlet canal (just beneath the bridge). The water was black, turbid and had a foul smell. The foam was thick.

Location 7: But immediately after the slope and flow normalized to a clean flow after around 500 metres where the water flowed smoothly.

Foaming in the outlet canal       

Reduced foam since the flow is smooth

Image 11: Foaming in the outlet canal       Image 12: Reduced foam since the flow is smooth

Location 8: We then returned back on the same path and observed that even though we could not find any inlet into the lake we could see some inflow into the outlet canals from the localities. We found some solid waste also thrown into canals. Even though this did not affect the lake, it affected the quality of water in the canal and hence the downstream.

  Suspected outlet pipe from the new development

Image 13: Suspected outlet pipe from the new development 

Sewage flow into the south outlet canal and solid waste thrown near the bridge  

Image 14: Sewage flow into the south outlet canal and solid waste thrown near the bridge

  Domestic Sewage flowing directly into the south outlet canal 

Image 15: Domestic Sewage flowing directly into the south outlet canal

Everyone we met blamed the sewage water which is pumped into the lake from the growing city. Since the inlets were not visible from the road, we were not able to get an idea of the condition of the water coming into the lake.

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