What are the burning problems in India

Foam mountains and burning lakes

Bangalore Lake Varthur in India's metropolis Bangalore is so polluted that it repeatedly produces meter-high piles of foam. Oils and fats recently caught fire on the water of neighboring Lake Bellandur - it looked as if the lake was on fire. This week, thousands of dead fish came to the surface of Lake Ulsoor in the middle of the booming city. They formed a huge carpet of fins and scales.

"All the wastewater from Bangalore ends up in the lakes," says T.V. Ramachandra, who conducts research on water at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) in Bangalore. In a number of studies, he has found: Both most faeces and highly polluted water from industry flow into the waters. "Inefficient authorities, careless companies and numerous sub-government agencies have turned the garden city into an uninhabitable city," says his most recent report on Lake Varthur.

According to the non-governmental Center for Science and Environment (CSE), unplanned urbanization is to blame for the disaster - not just in Bangalore, but across India. In the country with the second largest population in the world, there is not a single responsible central body; rather, countless authorities keep pushing the tasks back and forth. As a result, the laws would not be observed, says Sushmita Sengupta from the CSE water team.

Methane bubbles rise from the broth

For example, where the Yamuna River flows through the capital New Delhi, methane bubbles rise from the dark broth. Not even the holy Ganges is spared. The Indian government admits on the website of the “National Mission for a Clean Ganges” that the river is unsuitable for bathing in some sections.

One government after the other wanted to clean up the Ganges. "2000 crore (271 million euros) have already been spent in total and the river is still dirty," the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country, recently stated according to the Indian media.

But nowhere is the pollution as visible as in Bangalore, the country's technology metropolis with more than eight million inhabitants. Because of the high discharge of detergent surfactants, the lakes foam at their outflows. So strong in the rainy season that the foam washes over the streets.

"I come by here every day and see how the poisonous foam lands on the cars and motorcyclists," says 26-year-old software specialist Sanchita Jha. “And that in an IT city! I am feeling ashamed for that."


"Don't ask for clean water, ask for it!"

Jha started an online petition and a concentrated campaign on social media. In light of the public outcry, Bangalore's infrastructure authority, the BBMP, promised at several meetings last May that it would address the problem quickly. The most visible measures so far: a large chain link fence prevents the foam from reaching the street. And chemicals are sprayed to reduce foaming.

Of course, that is only combating symptoms, says Professor Ramachandra. Rather, sewage treatment plants and algae pools are needed to purify the water. Instead, more and more nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon would be discharged, and household and construction waste would be thrown into the lakes. “I no longer have any hope that the authorities will listen to us. We can only achieve something in court, ”he says.

He also relies on educating the population. Instead of retiring to his study at the university, which is filled to the five-meter-high ceiling with books, Ramachandra sets off. The other day he took the stage in the auditorium of the K.K. High School in Varthur to explain the problem to the students. 50,000 liters of untreated water, he told them, flow into their lake every day. That's why the water smells so bad.

Some of the students took samples from the drinking water wells around the lake and tested them in the IISC's laboratories. The water was above the permissible values ​​for several parameters, the tenth grader Pavana Vekatachalapathi tells her classmates. A survey of doctors in the village showed that many residents suffer from skin diseases and bowel problems, which can be attributed to the poor water, among other things.

“Send emails to the prime minister. Demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister's office, ”Ramachandra urges his young audience in the auditorium. You should make sure that the water is really cleaned and not simply diverted into the next lake. “Don't ask for clean water! Demand it because you are rightfully entitled to it. "

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