Urban lakes in India are dirty and
Udaipur city, Rajasthan, is surrounded by the Aravalli hills
and five lakes Pichola, Fatehsagar, Rangsagar, Swaroopsagar
and Dudh Talai. Deforestation in the hills surrounding Udaipur
and in the adjoining forests of Mewar region has meant that
each years monsoon washes down tonnes of silt into the
lakes. It has been estimated that the capacity of Pichola is
reducing every year by 0.93 per cent, and that of Fatehsagar
by 1.16 per cent.
Approximately 60,000 people live around the lakes and nearly
60 hotels dot their peripheries. Domestic sewage and wastewater
from the hotels is let into Pichola, Rangsagar and Swaroopsagar.
Defecation on the banks of Swaroopsagar is a common practice.
Solid domestic waste amounting to 20-25 tonnes per day is also
dumped close to the lakes. This finds its way into the lakes
during the monsoons.
Besides, people living around the lakes continuously attempt
to extend their personal property by encroaching upon the
lakes. The 73 ghats on lake Pichola are used by the public
for bathing and washing, which includes infected linen from
hospitals. A large amount of detergent goes into the water,
increasing its phosphate content.
A large amount of faecal coliforms, indicative of the presence
of faecal matter, has been detected in drinking water during
studies conducted by scientists from the M L Sukhadia University
and the Rajasthan Agriculture University over the last 20-25
years. Besides, during treatment, water is superclorinated
to remove impurities. This is known to produce trihalomethanes,
highly carcinogenic chemicals. This could be the reason for
the high incidence of cancer in Udaipur. The poor quality
of drinking water here is resulting in the high incidence
of water-borne diseases such as typhoid, para-typhoid, amoebic
dysentery, colitis, diarrhoea and viral hepatitis. The pollution
has also practically wiped out the bigger carps, leaving only
minor carps, minnows and puntius.
Between 1978-82 a partial sewage system was constructed (without
a sewage treatment plant) to cover 30-35 per cent of the population
around the lakes. However, due to certain design limitations
and improper maintenance, the system does not function and
raw sewage flows directly into Pichola and Rangsagar. Besides,
water treatment plants, which have a capacity of 24.1 million
litres per day (mld), generally treat 31.8 mld handling
an overload of 32 per cent. A number of cracks in the filter
beds results in suspended solids escaping into the drinking
Upper lake, locally known as Bada Talab, was built by king Bhoj
of Dhar (1000-1055 ad) by constructing a massive earthen bund
across the river Kolans in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The lake,
with a catchment area of 36.1 sq km, has become highly polluted
primarily due to eutrophication (see: pp 42-43). Its water spread,
too, has either been replaced with silted land mass or covered
with aquatic weeds which takes a turn for the worse during summer.
Agricultural crops are generally to be found in the area,
rather than thick forests. As such the catchment area, covered
with black soil, is subject to serious erosion. This results
in silt and a large volume of humus material being carried
into the lake by the Kolans river and other rivulets entering
it. Also, agricultural residues from villages and solid waste,
including construction debris from residential and commercial
areas, find their way into the lake through drains and streams,
particularly during the rainy season.
Besides, it is estimated that 7,500 cubic metres (cum) per
day of sewage joins the lake. According to a report prepared
by Pradeep Shrivastav, reader in the department of liminology,
Barkatullah University, Bhopal, the bacterial load in the
lakes has shot up 20 times between 1985 and 1993, pointing
towards the degradation of water quality due to organic waste.
Also, the total suspended solids has gone up from 39 milligram
per litre (mg/l) in 1965 to 90 mg/l in 1992. This poses a
serious threat to the quality and the usable quantity of water
for the citys public water supply scheme, itself already
handicapped by the absence of an alternative cost-effective
Sadly, certain governmental decisions are totally contradictory
to the objectives of the Bhoj Wetland Project
a Rs 231-crore Japanese-funded conservation scheme to revive
the upper lake system. A proposal is pending with the government
to bring the lake under the Ramsar Convention, which means
that the multiple use of the lake for recreation, fisheries,
drinking and wildlife will be encouraged. Further, the Bhopal
municipal corporation is planning to use the lake as the site
for a multi-crore water sports club. A four-storeyed hotel
that has been constructed barely 10 m away from the lake is
also ready to start functioning. The liquid waste generated
by the hotel, which is situated right in front of the water
treatment plant, is bound to be released directly into the
lake, and probably very close to the point from where the
water is taken out for treatment.
The historic Hussainsagar lake in the heart of Hyderabad city,
Andhra Pradesh, is now a stinking stretch of polluted water
separating it from its twin city, Secunderabad. The lake, which
once received unpolluted water from the upper reaches of the
river Musi, now receives domestic sewage and myriad chemicals
from 300-odd industries.
Four industrial estates located in its basin Sanathnagar,
Balanagar, Kukatpally and Jeedimetla drain untreated
and partially treated wastes into the lake. This, along with
domestic sewage received from Picket, Kukatpally, Bolakpur
and Banjara Hills nullahs (drains), accounts for a daily flow
of 28,190 cum per day of waste into Hussainsagar. Presently,
the lake is saturated with phenols, benzenes, cyanides and
toxic metals. Hussainsagar was a drinking water source from
1884 to 1930.
Lake Osmansagar and Himayatsagar, which provide potable water
supply to the twin cities, are also facing extinction due
to rapid siltation and quarrying in the catchment areas. Dredging
of these lakes is required to increase the water holding capacity
Groundwater pollution along the Hussainsagar watershed poses
serious health hazards. Nitrate concentration in the groundwater
around the lake is reportedly high, ranging from 0-400 ppm
(parts per million), several-fold higher than the permissible
World Health Organization (who) standard of 10 ppm. A study
in 1993 revealed high concentration of toxic heavy metals
in groundwater samples along the radius of 0-800 metres around
the lake. The concentrations of lead were in the range of
1-25 microgram/litre (µg/l), and cadmium concentrations
ranged from 1-27 µg/l. These are significantly higher
than the permissible levels of 10 µg/l of lead and 5
µg/l of cadmium recommended by agencies such as the
Indian Council of Medical Research and the who.
Hyderabad to restore all its urban waterbodies by 2009.
A declaration (known as Hyderabad declaration) made by
the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA) at the
end of a three-day international workshop on urban lakes
conservation and management in Hyderabad on June 18, 2003.
The meet was jointly organised
by HUDA and World Water Institute, Pune. More than 100
participants (including Mayors, Municipal Commissioners,
non-governmental organisations and researchers) from India
and abroad deliberated on how to revive these lakes to
augment city's water supply. While speaking on the occasion,
Lakshmi Parthasarathy, vice chairperson of HUDA, said,
"The 162 waterbodies in Hyderabad city occupy about
3,000 hectares of land. And, if these lakes are revived
than about 220 MLD of water could be recharged. This will
be able to reduce the gap of 400 MLD between demand and
supply". HUDA plans to tackle about 87 lakes in the
initial phase. The Royal Netherlands embassy is funding
the project. Working in this field for past four years,
HUDA has successfully brought a government notification.
It gives directions to keep 30 m of area from the full
tank capacity level free from all construction related
Chandrababu Naidu, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh,
inaugurated the event. A host of delegates presented their
views. Ayan Appan from Singapore said that the pigs were
the main culprits - so, their relocation from the catchment
area solved the problem. Tej Razdan from Rajasthan and
Linda Nowlan from British Columbia shared their experience
to conserve lakes with judiciaries help. Nowlan said there
are about 70 laws to conserve freshwater bodies in Canada
and the defaulters have to pay heavy penalty. R Bhalla
from FERRAL, Pondicherry, shared the application of GIS
in conservation of lakes. At the end of the day, it was
observed that encroachment and pollution are the major
problems affecting the lakes all over the world. An international
training institute was proposed in Hyderabad. The participants
planned to meet again in January 2004 to share the progress
made and chalk out the way ahead.
For further information:
M Ravinder Reddy
Hyderabad Urban Development Authority
1-8-323, Paigah Palace, Police Lines,
Rasoolpura, Secunderabad 500 003
Tel: + 91-40-27905993
The Dal Lake has shrunk more than 15 km over the last 60 years.
Since 1992, the lake has shown a red bloom, denoting
eutrophication or lake death. Siltation, direct inflow of sewage,
encroachment and stagnant water have led to gradual degradation.
One of the serious impacts of degra dation has been the gradual
loss of a flood control system. G M Zargar of the Urban Environmental
Engineering Department (ueed) says that there are frequent
floods every year and the water level remains high due to
inflow from feeder drains, local drainage and springs trickling
into the lake bed.
Restoration plans are on but results are yet to be seen.
A feasibility study for a Rs 410-crore restoration project
will initially focus on partial treatment of sewage from 1,400
odd houseboats and houses on the periphery of the lake. But
environmentalists feel that the project, which has been undertaken
by the ueed (which manages the lake), would touch only the
tip of the iceberg. Says M A Kawosa, Jammu and Kashmir director
of environment and remote sensing: when we look back
over the past 15-20 years, we find that, with all the effort
and money, we have not been able to solve the problem.
In the past, lakes and tanks were a very important aspect
of water supply for the purposes of drinking and irrigation
in India in both urban and rural areas. South India used
to be particularly rich in tanks, with the Cholas, Hoysalas
and Vijaynagar kings paying great attention to irrigation.
Writing about the tanks in Karnataka in 1896, a British
engineer noted that the tanks, constructed by the rajahs
or wealthy natives, were magnificent works
on a gigantic scale...got up regardless of expenses, as
their originators had for object the attainment of religious
merit by execution of such works, quite as much as the
acquisition of grain by the profits of improved cultivation.
However, tanks did not suit the British system of governance.
They wanted to extract resources. As land revenue from
each village was assured through a well-developed ryotwari
and zamindari system, construction of tanks would not
enhance any revenue. Maintenance, by extension, would
mean useless drainage of the exchequer. Thus, instead
of community-managed indigenous water systems, like
tanks and wells, which deteriorated after they stopped
receiving state patronage, the emphasis shifted to diverting
and pumping river water through projects like the Punjab
and Deccan Canals and India's present obsession
with dams and other large-scale water projects took
root. Little has changed since independence, with minimal
funds being allotted to minor irrigation projects in
the Five Year Plans. As existing systems fail to provide
the burgeoning metros with sufficient water, ambitious
projects are being drawn up to pump water over large
distances at enormous costs.
Over the years, the tanks and wetlands have been neglected
and systematically encroached upon, and made the receptacles
of city muck. Present Indian governments have meticulously
followed the footsteps.