While the chemical foaming of Bengaluru's lakes has become a shamefully standard sight, the fact that the lakes are now beginning to catch on fire has alarmed the entire city. Although city authorities seem woefully clueless about the situation, and how to deal with it, short of periodically sending fire trucks to douse the flames. 

As a PIL by Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), requesting for intervention by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) stated - 

"Last month’s (January's) fire was not the first or only incident when the lake caught fire. There have been numerous incidents of major or minor fires due to the burning of solid municipal waste, garbage in the lake catchment. The fire department has been regularly dousing the fire near the lake bed. However, authorities appear to have turned a blind eye towards the environment.

The present situation of the lake is alarming and immediate remedial measures are required to be adopted to save the dying lake regarding the recommendations of the NBF's #SaveBellandur Action Plan Report and GoK’s Expert’s Committee Report."

The situation of the Bengaluru lakes and Bellandur, in particular, is so bad that there is no proper quantification of the actual amount of treated or untreated sewage entering the lake. All estimates are based on old data and are unreliable. 

However, in what may be a ray of light for Bengaluru's lakes, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has not only gotten involved but begun a crackdown on various state agencies for the fires and private enterprises who have encroached on the lake. 

Earlier on 22 February 2017, The NGT issued a suo-moto show cause notice to various state authorities such as KSPCB, KLCDA, BDA, BWSSB and CPCB as to why they should not be prosecuted under the Environment Protection Act for the state of the Bellandur lake. The Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) had also impleaded into the case on the same date, seeking broader interventions.

While some state authorities did send their responses, many have not. Rather than ignoring the silence, the NGT ordered those who have not filed their affidavits to do so in two weeks' time.

The Tribunal also directed that all Sewage Treatment Plants (whether Government or privately owned), should meet the revised standards notified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)/Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

Related to the state of Bellandur Lake, the NBF petition also recalled the NGT's earlier judgement on encroachments into the lake. Agreeing, the NGT asked Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd and Core Mind Software and Services Pvt Ltd to file a compliance report, certifying whether or not there had obeyed the directions of the NGT passed in the judgement of 04 May 2016. 

In the May 4th, 2016 judgment, the NGT had ordered the reclamation of 3 acres 10 guntas of lake land at the cost of Mantri Techzone Pvt Ltd. The order asked the possession of this area to be restored by Mantri to the concerned authorities immediately. 

Also, a buffer zone of 75 metres was ordered to be provided between the lake and the project area, and this should be maintained as a 'green area'. 

The Lake Development Authority was directed to demolish all constructions including boundary walls falling in the buffer zone in respect of all water bodies/lakes of Bangalore.

Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO, Namma Bengaluru Foundation, stated that "We do hope that by 12th April we will now see enough action by the Government of Karnataka to reduce the suffering of the residents next to Bellandur and Varthur Lakes by committing to a timeline to all the recommendations of the Expert Committee. Also, we hope the directions given by the Hon'ble NGT on 04 May 2016 will be complied by the developers and the Government Agencies."

About Namma Bengaluru Foundation

Founded and supported by Rajya Sabha member Shri. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Namma Bengaluru Foundation works towards making Bengaluru a model city, with well-planned infrastructure, well laid out neighbourhood community models and people-driven governance measures.