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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Activist begins hunger strike to save the last lake in Chandrapur

Bandu Dhotre, who runs environmental NGO Eco Pro, has been fighting for the cause of Ramala Lake, built by the Gond kings more than 500 years ago to supply water to the walled city of Chandrapur, since 2009.

Written by Vivek Deshpande | Nagpur |
Updated: February 27, 2021 10:49:03 pm
Bandu Dhotre said apart from the city's sewage, the lake is also polluted by urea and sulphate, which is drained into it during the rainy season from the adjoining railway siding, where these fertilisers get unloaded. (Express photo)

An environmental activist has started a hunger strike to save the last remaining lake in Chandrapur.

Bandu Dhotre, who runs environmental NGO Eco Pro, has been fighting for the cause of Ramala Lake, built by the Gond kings more than 500 years ago to supply water to the walled city of Chandrapur, since 2009. He said his efforts to persuade the administration to save the lake over the past 12 years have had little effect, forcing him to sit on a hunger strike.

Dhotre and his NGO had been praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Mann Ki Baat programme for the massive cleanup of the 11-km-long historic wall built by the Gond kings.

“The 97-acre Ramala lake is the last remaining lake of Chandrapur city with five other lakes, Kangara, Tukum, Ghutwala, Gauri and Lal, having been decimated over the years as the city spread beyond its walled beginnings. Ramala, too, is counting its last moments with encroachment in its catchment, severe pollution caused by sewage disposal from the city and sludge formation at the lake’s bed. Eco Pro has been battling for the cause since 2009, when we started removing water hyacinth from the lake. But the administration has failed to take it up on priority citing financial constraints,” Dhotre, who is also a member of the State Wildlife Board, said on Saturday.

Dhotre added, “Apart from the city’s sewage, the lake is also polluted by urea and sulphate, which is drained into it during the rainy season from the adjoining railway siding, where these fertilisers get unloaded. The administration needs to build a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), which is a legal requirement and cannot be put off for financial reasons. Over the years, the administration has done little to mitigate the problem.”

Chandrapur Collector Rajendra Gulhane said, “We have taken some steps like appointment of a nodal officer in my office to coordinate with other departments that are concerned with this problem, like Railways, Irrigation and Chandrapur Municipal Corporation. Each of them will have their own officers to coordinate with our nodal officer, a Deputy Collector, on day-to-day basis to monitor the progress of mitigation measures. We need to construct an STP, which will cost Rs 8-10 crore. We have also approached National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) for microbial treatment to clean up the lake water. That will cost Rs 15-16 crore. The problem is, where will we get these funds? We are working on a solution.”

He added, “I have asked the Chandrapur Municipal Corporation to prevent the city’s sewage water from being drained into the lake.”
Dhotre said he will continue his hunger strike till the government makes provision for necessary funds to save the lake.

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