Having grown up in Cleveland, Ohio, I’m familiar with bodies of water catching fire like the Cuyahoga River did in 1969. And, as a current resident of the state, I’ve seen videos of people living near fracking wells whose tap water can be ignited with a lighter. But I’ve never seen anything like Bellandur Lake near Bangalore, India, whose blackened water became covered with a mysterious foam before the body of water spontaneously exploded into huge flames and billowing clouds of putrid smoke.
What started the spontaneous combustion of Bellandur Lake is a mystery but the propellant is not – chemical pollution. It’s hard to believe any level of government could let the body of water reach a state where the toxic foam on its surface was four feet high and spilling onto nearby roadways. And yet, a Regional Officer of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board said he was puzzled by it.
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.
Really? Finger-pointing is going on in every direction and at every level, starting unfortunately at the bottom with the pourakarmikas – the lowly municipal street cleaners and trash collectors. While they certainly contribute to the problem by dumping into the lake, it’s nothing compared to the untreated sewage that flows in at a rate pf 400 million liters per day from builders, housing developments and manufacturing and chemical plants.
Can anything be done to save Bellandur Lake from going up in flames and taking with it the local residents and any wildlife that’s left? Well, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the local administrative body responsible for it, proudly proclaimed it built a fence around the lake. Wow!
The Clean Water Act helped put out the flames on the Cuyahoga River and today it is relatively clean and improving. It looks like the only thing that will clean up Bellandur Lake is forcing polluters to drink from it.