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Bhopal: Constructions around Upper Lake pose threat to water body, govt remains indifferent

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Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

BHOPAL: Unchecked constructions in the catchment area of Upper Lake and buildings on the periphery, have posed a serious risk to Upper Lake in Bhopal.

Already, sewerage from the unauthorized commercial structures including hotels at Boat Club is causing harm to the Lake.

But despite all efforts of citizens to raise a voice to save the lake, constructions continue on the bank of Upper Lake. If the situation continues, the lake may not survive for long.

In fact, it was barely till a few weeks ago that citizens were worried about the fate of the lake. Mercifully, monsoon didn't disappoint and the lake that was drying up, again got filled.

And, it was a harsh lesson to everyone that just one or two bad years in terms of rain, can dry up the lake. Clearly, it needs a proper policy and monitoring to ensure that the lake survives. However, except a few voices that are heard through out the year, there is little focus and the real danger to the lake is being overlooked.

It's time to keep focus on lake throughout the year, save it

Come April and once again as the water level would go down, there would be concerns across the city. But there won't be many Aprils to come in future. Citizens get alarmed when the water level recedes so much that people walk up to the Shah Ali Shah's islet [Takiya].

It has been happening repeatedly in recent years. The Kolans river that was one of the major water sources for the lake, has also seen unauthorised constructions and the river has shrunk in a big way. The administration too wakes up mostly in the summer. But year after the year, the situation has worsened. 

Unauthorised constructions in wetland should have been stopped long ago

Experts say that Upper Lake has been neglected and not given due importance for years. While there is clear rule that construction can't be undertaken 50 metres from water body, there are also norms pertaining to sewerage disposal that have not been followed strictly. 

'It is Central India's lone Ramsar site, on the basis of the international agreement on Wetland sites agreement at Ramsar in Iran. The wetland is up till Sehore and huge construction in this area has affected the lake in such a way that it now faces existential crisis", says a veteran journalist who is expert on water bodies and conservation of water. 

"In some places, boundary and retaining wall stopped the water. But the truth is that Bhopalites and the Government didn't care for Upper Lake. They took it for granted, almost as if it was a mini pond though nowhere in India such a huge lake exists in the midst of city", he further says.

Citizens, activists worried about Upper Lake's survival, raise voice

Social activist Syed Asrar Ali has strongly objected to the apathy shown towards Upper Lake and says that failure to control such unauthorised activity (constructions and encroachments) would ultimately kill the water body. "It is strange that NGT remains silent at the constructions near Bairagarh (catchment area) on one side and Neelbad-Bhadbhada on the other". 

"When the entire catchment area and the region that was source of incoming water would be encroached, how will the lake survive?", he questions. Huge amount of human excreta is now getting into the lake and is poisoning the water in the lake that is known across the world", Asrar Ali adds. He has said that government must take stern action in case of constructions at the bank of the Upper Lake.

Of late, city youths have taken up steps to raise the failure of administration in savin the lake--Bada Talab, as it is known as in Bhopal. A group of volunteers had even kept an eye on the clever diversion of water from Upper Lake even before it was filled, to save certain private structures including a hospital (built in catchment area) from getting drowned. [Photo is representative]

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Journalist for more than 20 years. Had started his career with National Mail in the nineties. Worked as Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, as an Assistant Editor with DB Post, later Contributing Editor with The Huffington Post, writes for First Post, The Wire, Newsd & several other major publications.