In a bizarre turn of events, the ‘dry’ water hyacinth cover on Pashan lake caught fire on Monday. While there were no reports of damage to life and property, environmentalists and locals say that the fire is an indication of serious environmental damage done to the lake over the years.
Sachin Dhamane, member, World Society of Conservation of Wildlife, had spotted the fire in the afternoon. “We had gone to the lake when we noticed smoke rising from its vicinity. On reaching the spot, we saw that the bed of dried water hyacinth had caught fire,” he said.
Using sticks and water buckets, Dhamane and others managed to douse the fire.
“The fire broke out on the Pashan-Sus Road side of the lake which just has a narrow approach road. Fortunately, we could control the fire on our own. Due to the narrow approach road, it would have been difficult for fire tenders to reach the spot,” he said. Dhamane said the fire could have been a deliberate act of arson or could have been an incident of forest fire common in the Western Ghats.
Often highlighted as a success story of urban water body conservation, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had done extensive work there. Records show the civic body had carried out work worth Rs 10.3 crore that included dredging, construction of social structures, retaining wall and beautification. The environmental status report (ESR) of 2013-14 says the Pashan lake’s dissolved oxygen levels stood at 6 parts per million (ppm) while its biological oxygen demand (BOD) stood at 15 miligram per liter.
Vinod Bodhankar, president, Jalbiradari, said the growth of water hyacinth was a sign that pollution levels in the lake have increased. “Water hyacinth is not a pollutant but a pollution indicator. Its proliferation indicates that sewage and solid-bio-wastes are dumped into the lake,” he said. The DO levels of an ecologically alive water body should be 8 ppm, which is not the case.