Rs 10 crore for conserving Lonar lake

Larvae found in sewage discovered in the water body formed by meteoric crater

 
By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Monday 24 October 2011

The Maharashtra government has sanctioned Rs 10 crore for conserving and protecting Lonar lake in Buldhana district. The move follows close on the heels of the discovery of two fresh water species in what is supposed to be a saltwater lake. Lonar is the world’s oldest meteoric crater and third largest saltwater lake. The money sanctioned is to be used mostly to acquire farms around the lake to prevent fresh water flowing into it, and also to divert sewage from nearby residential areas.

[Highlights]

The lake, which is 1,710 metre in diameter, has been reduced into a waste receptacle for the past several decades despite the local council declaring a 500 metre zone surrounding the lake as a no-development zone. Sewage from a slum cluster, comprising 350 shanties close to the lake, drains into the water body. Some 22 ha of dry land in the crater is being farmed, which causes water laced with pesticides and fertilizers to flow into the lake. The Lonar-Mantha road has damaged the most sensitive part of the lake’s ecosystem—the rim and the ejecta-blanket, a one kilometre area outside the crater where rock material thrown by meteoric action is deposited. A highway being constructed close by has compounded the problem.

Alkalinity declining, pollution increasing

The lake’s water has been steadily losing its unique properties due to fresh water intrusion. The alkaline level of the water, recorded at 13 in the 1960s and 1970s, has dipped to below 10. Rise in nitrogen and phosphorus levels has triggered algae growth, blocking oxygen necessary for the survival of the lake’s unique population of magnetic and methane-eating bacteria. Recently, the most important evidence of serious deterioration in the water quality came to light when the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) at Pune, found two fresh-water species, Corixa and Eristalis, in the lake water. “Corixa is a fresh water fish, and Eristalis larvae are generally found in human sewage,” says Hemant Ghate, senior zoologist with NCSS. “This proves that salinity level of the lake water has fallen drastically and sewage pollution is rising considerably.”

Pravin Pardeshi, principal secretary of forests, said that the time limit for completing the work of land acquisition, sewage diversion, removal of foreign tree species and fresh plantation in their place has been set at one year. The Buldhana district administration has been instructed to start work immediately. Buldhana collector B G Wagh has said that the land acquisition work will be completed in four months.

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