Saturday, August 6, 2022

A narrow escape, hopefully!

The vigilance of our gardeners is to be applauded. On 3rd Aug, at around 5.30 p.m., they telephoned to say that "black oil" was entering the lake. We replied that it may be from the two-wheeler mechanic shop across the road and asked them to get it stopped. We were wrong. Our gardeners followed the trail of the "black oil" along the rainwater drain, on the road, into an alley and reached a closed chamber outside a huge packaging outlet. Behind this was an agro marketing depot which was the source of this liquid.  

Black liquid on its way to the lake through the drain
On its way to the lake through the drain

Black liquid collecting on the road
Collecting on the road

Even as they gave us these updates, we called the BWSSB ward office and BBMP (Lakes). Though it was nearing 6 p.m., BWSSB at once sent a jetting machine but they took one look at the discharge and returned the way they came. This was not their responsibility. BBMP (Lakes) informed the ward Health Inspector and offered to issue a warning to the polluter. We needed action. We wanted the pollutant to be stopped at once and we were racing against the rain! 

We called the company's Production Manager and insisted that they pump the liquid out of the chamber. The guy didn't know what exactly the liquid was and he hadn't been aware of it flowing out of his premises and onto the road! Our gardeners waited with the man till 9:30 that night and ensured that the chamber was emptied. Nothing could be done about the pools that had collected by the roadside and in the drain. 

The next morning, along with the BBMP Asst. Engineer, we inspected the lake first. The water looked slightly dark but then it was a cloudy day. We went to the godown which was piled with huge bags and bins. 

bags and bins inside the godown
Bags and bins inside the godown

BBMP AE warned the manager and we returned with a sample of the liquid feeling a little easier that the ingress didn't seem to have polluted the water. Once again we were wrong. 

Yesterday morning, our gardeners called to say that the fish was coming to the surface of the water all over the lake. We rushed to the lake. Indeed, the surface looked as if raindrops were falling gently causing little ripples in the water. Fish, big and small, were coming up to breathe everywhere. They do this when the water is highly polluted and lacks dissolved oxygen!

fish struggling to breathe
Fish struggling to breathe

Just the day before, on 2nd Aug., we had given water samples  to a private lab for testing. The last test done in April had shown DO as between 3.9 and 4.6 mg/L across five samples from different points! And yet, by noon, 4 big sized fish and 30 to 40 small ones (as the gardeners reckon) had paid the price for the low oxygen. 

Dead fish
Dead for no fault of theirs. Nile tilapia.

We telephoned the Member Secretary, KSPCB and apprised him of the situation. He assured us that he would send his officers to inspect and take necessary action. They came today morning. Meanwhile, our gardeners reported sighting two big dead fish and many more small ones which they didn't count. 

Big Nile tilapia fish dead
Big fish. Dead.

We will know what killed the fish when KSPCB analyses the sample and the water. Meanwhile, we fervently hope and pray that their number doesn't increase. This can happen if it rains and rains and rains some more.  

A few thoughts arise from this incident. The Production Manager had insisted that their products are "organic". Only a small quantity was enough to affect the fish in the lake which is now overflowing. What if this had happened in summer? 

Since we monitor our lake closely, we acted swiftly and averted a crisis. What about lakes that don't have citizen groups as stewards, as watchdogs?

Another blessing is that the Fisheries Department has agreed to exempt our little lake from commercial fishing. We are awaiting formal communication from them in this regard. However, the fisherman had caught the last lot on 27th June. What if... ? No. We don't want to speculate ....!

Our sincere thanks to KSPCB, BBMP and BWSSB for their swift action. 

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