“I have seen this lake filled with fresh water, a haven for birds and fish but today, it seems that a last nail on the coffin is being hit,” says D S Gowda, a resident of Sir M Vishweshwaraiah Layout and president of the local resident welfare association.
The Ullal Lake, which sprawls over an area of 31.1 acre in the south-western part of Bengaluru, has lost its charm in the last one decade. Local residents say unplanned development activities of the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), encroachment of the lake bed and lack of maintenance by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) are the prime reasons for its pathetic state today.
From outside, the lake seems fully fenced, guarded and equipped with a walking path. But upon entering the premises, the real state of the lake is exposed — partially filled with sewage water, there are layers of weed and algae on the surface of the lake and a stench in the air. Even a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) has not come to help.
According to Gowda, the lake was one of the best freshwater lakes in the city but died in just one decade. “I saw this lake in good condition in 2010 but now it is horrible. It is more of a fenced land now than a lake,” he says.
According to Gowda, it is one of the oldest lakes of Bengaluru which was doing all good till Bengaluru started rapidly expanding.
The lake is surrounded by the Sir M Vishweshwaraiah Layout, Railway Layout and other private layouts. BDA, which took the responsibility to develop the lake, damaged it more before handing it over to BBMP.
Ramesh R, a resident of Sir M Vishweshwaraiah Layout says, “In the name of development, they built a park, created a walkers’ path and did so much but only to ruin the lake. BDA then handed over the land to private players to form layouts which not only prevented the connectivity between Mallathalli Lake and Ullal Lake but also diverted drains of these layouts leading to untreated water entering the lake.”
BBMP has allotted Rs 5 lakh annually for the maintenance of the lake. However, sources say the amount is not enough as most of it goes into cleaning works like cutting grass etc.
Mahanthesh K B, a resident who has stopped walking in the lake area due to the stench, says the problem is beyond just the lake as the underground water here is totally contaminated because of the inflow of sewage water to the lake. “Nobody is paying any heed to these issues but it is affecting everyone living in the vicinity,” Mahanthesh said.
A water quality test done under the National Water Quality Monitoring Programme showed the quality of the water is unsatisfactory. The lake, which had been classified as good for propagation of wildlife and fisheries, is no longer serving the purpose.
In September this year, the resident welfare association wrote a letter to the chairman of the National Green Tribunal demanding an end to the inflow of sewage water into the lake and to hold a meeting on this. In February, a committee held a meeting in Bengaluru and issued directions to prevent the inflow of sewage water to the lake but the same was not followed.
An official in the lakes section of BBMP said that there needs to be a level correction between the lake bed and the wetland as the water which is supposed to flow from Mallathalli to Ullal is flowing back. Also, there is no connectivity after the water reaches Ullal Lake as the land is encroached. The pipelines from Mallathalli Lake leading to Ullal Lake that bring treated water were blocked in the recent rainfall. One of the lake bund is also weak which needs to be addressed or would see another breaching incident, the officer said.
BBMP Superintendent Engineer (lakes) Vijay Kumar said there is a lack of funds and that he will be paying a visit to the lake soon to understand the ground reality.