Medical waste litter the banks of Ranchi Lake on Wednesday; (inset) dead fish float on the water surface. Pictures by Manik Bose
Ranchi, May 27: What once reflected the British way of orderliness and hygiene is today a watery graveyard for aquatic life, courtesy tonnes of biomedical waste.
The magnificent Ranchi Lake, sprawling over 52 acres, is choking on wads of cotton, bandages, used syringes and medicine packets while the civic body is busy passing the buck. Result: Hundreds and thousands of floating fish — all dead, and decomposing.
According to local residents, the main culprits are a private nursing home and untreated sewage that drain into the lake. “The Nagarmal Modi Seva Sadan (NMSS) dumps garbage near the lake and some drains from Old Commissioner Compound lead to the lake,” said a resident of Nezam Nagar, not willing to be named.
NMSS president Raj Kumar Kedia denied the allegation. He said the nursing home had entrusted Ramgarh-based Biogenetic Private Limited for disposal of biomedical waste and that nothing was dumped around the lake.
Local residents begged to differ. They said the incinerator at NMSS was lying defunct for the past three years and untreated waste was littered everywhere. “Fishes are dying. For two days, we are seeing them floating on the water surface. The stench is unbearable,” said a resident, adding that they were planning to petition the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC), which is in charge of maintenance of the lake.
Their pleas may well go unheard. Civic officials first feigned ignorance when this correspondent brought the matter to their notice. Later, deputy administrator Rajesh Pathak passed the buck, saying that dying fish called for the attention of the fisheries department.
District fisheries officer Ravi Ranjan refused to accept responsibility. “The lake is not under the department’s jurisdiction. It is looked after by the RMC. How can we interfere unless asked for help?” he said.
Explaining the circumstances that may have led to the unpleasant situation, Ranjan said a cloudy sky slows down the process of photosynthesis, which generates oxygen. “The fish may not be getting enough oxygen because of the weather change. The onset of monsoon also causes a cloak of swamp that affects their life.”
The fisheries officer, however, did not rule out poisoning due to disposal of toxic biomedical wastes.
The history of the lake dates back to 1842. British rulers who dug up the water body developed it into a bird-watcher’s paradise.
Neglect began plaguing Ranchi Lake two decades ago. However, in 1992-93, then deputy commissioner Sudhir Prasad took personal initiative and cleared the lake of water hyacinths. Boating was introduced to attract tourists.
With the passage of time, the lake continued to languish with no one to care. June 2006 saw an unkind assault. Gathering filth destroyed aquatic life, prompting a drive, albeit short-lived, to revive the lake. A proposal was mooted to develop the water body under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Renewable Mission. Meinhardt Singapore Private Limited was entrusted with the task, but the progress is anybody’s guess.