When you mess with the nature and try and take too much advantage of it, it comes back to bite you on your behind in one form or the other. Nature has its way of balancing itself and also keeping itself clean.
A city in Bangalore, India which is one of the busiest hubs for all I.T. related businesses around the world has been a witness to a strange phenomenon of their two biggest lakes building up some foam and also instances of them catching fire all by themselves.
Here is what’s actually causing the fires in the lakes and the situation is a really sad one of high human error and lack of empathy towards keeping the nature clean.
1 The lake
At first look this photo may seem to show a layer of snow on top of a mountain. But the reality of the image is far more horrifying than you would realise. Actually what is happening here, it is a truly rare and a very unnatural phenomenon.
It’s actually one of the two lakes in Bangalore, India that have become so toxic that they foam over and sometimes even catches fire if the conditions deteriorate and it all looks like a scene straight out of a 70s cheesy horror movie. The names of the lakes are Bellandur and Varthur which are located in the busy hi-tech nucleus of Bangalore, of the two lakes, the 36 kilometre Bellandur Lake is the largest and by far the most contaminated one in the city.
2 Why the foaming and reasons for pollution
In a scene that is straight out of scary movie, the foam is an outcome of the severely toxic water the lake has which contains extremely high levels of ammonia and phosphate and very low dissolved oxygen in it.
This is the cause of decades and decades of untreated chemicals and toxic materials form the nearby factories being dumped into the lake by the means of pumps. The toxic sewage overflow contains high content of ammonia and phosphate, which when react with the water forms an enormous amount of foam and the reaction increases in rainy season when the clean water starts to fill in the pond.
Instead of being used by the locals for boating and picnic purposes, the Bellandur Lake, which is Benglauru’s largest lake, is being used as a drainage system by the city authorities. A similar case is happening at the second biggest lake in Bangalore, the Varthur Lake which has also started foaming thanks to illegal dumping of toxic materials in it.
3 Why it catches fire?
Sometimes the foam and the toxic water also catch fire and the foam which is supposed to douse the fire, instead keeps it lighted and simmering beneath the foam covering.
Indian Institute of Sciences Bioengineering expert Durga Madhab Mahapatra explains that the air particles stemming from the river are also beginning to cause a burning sensation in people’s eyes who live near the lake or use the road adjacent to the lakes. Even the IISC scientists had suffered the same sensation on a field trip to the lake.
If the spillage of toxic chemicals into the lakes weren’t bad enough, sewage from numerous parts of the city is also let loose into the lake, leaving it exceedingly polluted. During heavy rainy season, the foam from the lakes tumbles onto the road and that causes not only a long traffic jam, but also causes an intolerable stink in the air in the neighbourhood.
And when there is perfect combination of all the elements, the foam actually catches fire due to the high content of grease, oils and detergents in it.
This was found after the IISC scientists analyzed the samples from Varthur Lake. The results discovered the actual cause of fire. “After the fire dies out, it leaves a black residue. On analysing the remnants, we found that there were traces of oil, grease and other flammable materials which facilitated the spreading of fire,” Mahapatra said. The recent rains have also led the foam levels to increase.
4 Solutions for cleaning the lake
Since the lakes are local landmarks, the residents living near them are desperately trying to save them and they have set up a Facebook page in order to bring attention to the problem. Software executive and environmental activist Nagesh Aras told a local newspaper that disaster is looming if urgent action isn’t taken.
“We need to change course, but it’s like trying to turn the Titanic around,” Mr Aras said. “There’s an iceberg ahead, but the captain hasn’t even seen it. And that’s the tragedy with the fires. We’re trying to explain that they’re just the tip of the iceberg.”
The blame for the fire and pollution has been cast on the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the local city administration for allowing the continuous discarding of building material into the lakes. A Karnataka State Pollution Control Board officer commented that sewages from “nearby industries” had led to a buildup of flammable methane gas, causing the fire.