BENGALURU: The next time you buy fish from vendors near the city’s Ulsoor Lake, keep in mind that these fish might not have come from a pristine river or lake, but are likely to have been bred in sewage for the entirety of their short lives.
Residents living around the lake are up in arms against an illegal fishing network that has taken over a section of the lake. Not only is it not permitted according to them, but those who consume these fish are at a high risk of diseases as they are bred and caught in what is the dirtiest section of the lake. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) seems to be unaware of these activities being carried out right under their noses.
According to Saifullah, a resident of Ulsoor, it is very common to see people fishing in the sections of the lake which receive sewage. “The water here was never clean since I have been visiting the lake for my morning walk. You can see that the water is polluted ... but in spite of that people are fishing and selling them in the market which could lead to harmful diseases.” On Monday morning, when The New Indian Express visited Ulsoor Lake, a group of young boys could be seen wading waist-deep in the mix of lake and sewage trying to catch fish, blissfully unaware of the dangers they faced.
This part of the lake is almost black in colour owing to contamination and as a result, the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water is also less. In the past, there have been instances of thousands of fish floating dead owing to water contamination. The lake has fish of various kinds like pomfret, mackerel, croaker, carp, and sardine.
While there are nets and bunds to maintain the quality of water, they are non-functional, residents say. “The fish from here are sold to mediators who come and collect them from the people. I don’t know where they go from there but are likely sold in markets around the city. Government officials have not bothered to monitor the situation. BBMP even destroyed a park to build a sewage treatment plant, but even this does not work,” rued Kalidasa Reddy, an RTI activist.
While in the past, fishermen wanting to fish in the lake have had to take licences, this practice has not been in place for some time now and it is the view of Mayor Sampath Raj that fishing at the lake should not be permitted at all. “We are continuously writing letters to the Fisheries Department not to allow people to fish as the product is not edible. But they are going ahead and calling for tenders. I will write to them again. BBMP is not responsible for fishing, only cleaning of the lake. We will take this issue seriously,” Sampath Raj added.
In the meantime, those looking to make a quick buck will carry on casting their nets in the lake at night and selling the inedible fish to wholesalers in the mornings. According to G Murali, secretary of the Ulsoor Welfare Association, “These people fish in the area where sewage is released because the other sections are patrolled by the armed forces. Since they don’t have legal permission to do so, they operate at nights. They also get small fish here and cultivate them in the polluted water.”
When the area’s corporator Mamatha Saravana was asked about the issue, she said she was unaware of where the fish were being sold. “The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board has been giving several excuses for not maintaining the lake and it has been a long time since it was cleaned. There is no response from them,” she said. Health Inspector for the ward, Nethravathi, said she was surprised to learn that fishing was taking place in the lake. “I will go for a spot inspection on Tuesday itself,” she said.
March 2016 Thousands of fish of various sizes were found floating dead in the water, leading to a city-wide call for serious action to clean up the lake. The fish kill incidents occurred twice within a few days of each other and the polluted condition of the lake was blamed by experts at the time.