Powai lake has returned to its state of neglect despite crores of rupees being spent on its beautification. Environmentalists and residents allege that disrepair has become its biggest single malaise. They said that musical fountains erected as part of the beautification project, jogging tracks and iron bars and railings have been damaged due to lack of maintenance and neglect on part of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Expressing fears that the rapidly spreading water hyacinth could deplete the lake’s oxygen content and pose a threat to its biodiversity, environmentalists said all the money spent in the past few years has gone down the drain.
In March this year, mass deaths of fish were reported in the lake. Alarmed by fish debris floating on its surface, the Maharashtra State Angling Association (MSAA) conducted a field investigation. As per the report, the factors contributing to fish deaths include fluctuation of dissolved oxygen (DO) level (low oxygen during early morning time) and clogging due to blue-green algae in the gills of the more vulnerable species of fish.
After several complaints and objections from activists and residents in the past decade, the BMC undertook a plan to prevent sewage from entering the lake. At the same time, beautification of the area was also undertaken. Footpaths and separate jogging tracks were built, and iron railings and bollards were erected. Musical fountains were installed to add to the charm despite opposition from activists.
Environmentalist Sunish Subramaniam wrote to the BMC about the issue. He said after the implementation of the scheme, the lake attracted many tourists, but in the past few years he has seen vehicles being parked along the jogging track. “Peddlers and unauthorised hawkers started occupying some of the key spots frequented by tourists. Some shanties have also come up along the lake,” he said, adding that garlands, flowers and plastic waste is unrepentantly thrown into the water body. “Vehicles have started crossing the jogging tracks and also the small Ganpati immersion site,” he said.
Subramaniam added green activists had opposed the installation of musical fountains due to the biodiversity of the lake, but the BMC ignored their caution. He said there is a rising demand for the removal of water hyacinth from the lake, but the BMC does not seem too serious about this issue. “Citizens’ suggestions and objections need to be taken into consideration while planning the beautification of the lake,” he said. A BMC official said that the civic body is looking into the issue, but it has taken a backseat because of the pandemic.