Lake in India catches fire

BENGALURU: Flames emerged from Bellandur lake in Bengaluru, the city’s largest water body just before dawn Sunday, 17 May, shocking local residents. They reported yellowish flames near the Yemlur side of the 700.13-acre lake out of the white, bubbly froth that had covered the lake for the past few weeks. For more than five minutes, the flames spread amidst the undulations of the nearly four-feet-high froth.

It is believed that methane accumulated on the highly polluted water body may have combusted spontaneously, causing the bizarre phenomenon of fire on water. Siddaramaiah, the Regional Officer (Bommanahalli division) of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), who was as puzzled by the occurrence as residents in the area said, this was the first time in the city that froth or debris on top of a lake was reported to have combusted spontaneously. A team of officials from the district administration and Revenue Department visited the lake. Mr Siddaramaiah said, “We believe it is because of the methane build-up on the surface. Sewage has been flowing into the lake, and a layer of oil and froth, which is caused by chemicals from detergents and cleaners, had formed. In one area, methane gas had started to accumulate within the froth. Methane is a highly combustible gas, and it must have caught fire.” The toxic lakes of Bengaluru have been in the news for a while now. Factories located in and around Bellandur and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) areas are discharging large amounts of waste that contain chemicals and toxic materials into the lake. The lake surface has been covered with foam for sometime now. The local residents have raised the issue with the government authorities, but to no avail. Residents said that the fire in the lake might have been triggered by a chemical reaction between toxic effluents. Mr Mukund, a civic expert, said, “The Pollution Control Board should take the issue seriously and stop renewing licences to industries that are releasing toxic pollutants into this lake. The BBMP should make it mandatory for the industries to maintain the lake so that they can be held responsible in case of such incidents.” Mountains of foam have been choking the garden city’s lakes. Before Bellandur Lake, it was Varthur Lake in the vicinity that was frothed up a few days ago. Mr Raghavendra N, a resident, said, “The authorities have failed miserably in providing basic amenities to the people of the area. The lake has been filled with foam for sometime now and the fire was meant to happen someday. The authorities knew it very well, but chose to keep quiet till something drastic happened.” Mr M. Sriramulu, another resident, said, “Our children have been falling sick regularly and the mosquito menace here is unbearable. We had met the authorities earlier and raised these issues, but no action was taken.” Authorities meanwhile have been busy passing the buck on who should take responsibility for the mess. Assistant Executive Engineer of the area, Mr K. Reddy, said, “I visited the spot around 8 am on Saturday and there was no fire.” On pollution in the lake and the foam, he said, “There are many industries around, but I am not aware whether any action has been taken against them.” Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is the local municipality.

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