Bengaluru citizens join hands to save lakes

The seminar demanded power to Lake Development Authority to remove encroachments, and to enforce punitive measures against encroachers.

In an effort to address the challenges of rapid urbanisation and resulting ground water table depletion in hte city, citizen groups, NGOs and other organizations, active in the area of lake and water security for Bangalore, have come together to form One Bengaluru for Lakes (OBL). The group aims to raise ‘One Bengaluru, One voice, One Demand’ by reaching out to people to increase their awareness and involve them in the protection of lakes in their neighborhood.

As part of this campaign, OBL organised a seminar on September 21 at Senate hall of Central College, Palace Road. The session opened with the trailer of the movie “A day in the city” on Bangalore’s water problem, directed by Venkat Bhardwaj.

Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO, Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), spoke about challenges for lake rejuvenation and legal approaches to solving issues. His talk covered various policies and laws applicable to lake protection in India and also discussed the PILs concerning the lakes of Udaipur and Hyderabad.

He said, “There is need for greater clarity regarding the role of various agencies responsible for Lake Protection and Development. Currently multiple agencies are responsible for the protection of lakes. Further, there is no specific legislation for lake protection. The existing toothless and almost inoperative Lake Development Authority has not been effective in preventing encroachment of Lakes. The LDA should atleast be given the power to remove encroachments, and to enforce punitive measures against encroachers. The proposed ‘Karnataka Lake Development Authority’ bill needs wider consultation with lake protection groups, academics and public policy specialists. The viability for a comprehensive Legislation for the Protection of Lakes and other Urban water bodies needs to be studied.

Lakshmikanth, Member, Research Associate, Namma Bengaluru Foundation and member – One Bengaluru for Lakes shared information about survey number, encroachers, encroachment details, survey map, extent of the lakes, fencing status, condition of the lakes of twenty lakes of the city. The study will cover all the lakes of Bangalore. He said, “Namma Bengaluru Foundation’s efforts are to create a transparent and accountable process to protect the lake environment and remove all encroachments. In case citizens know of any potential encroachers, they can send the details to for further action.”

N S Mukunda, President, Citizen Action Forum and eminent civic activist, spoke on water security and role of lakes. He said BWSSB should provide 100% underground drainage for the entire city, and stop the flow of sewage into Storm Water Drains (SWD). A network of SWDs should interconnect all the lakes, new drains should be created as required. He said the government should declare lakes as heritage areas. He cautioned people that in the absence of these measures, Bangalore is going to be a dying city. As there are multiple agencies working at different aspects of lake eco-system, it leads to huge inefficiency and all lake-related activity should come under one government agency.

V Balasubramaniam, ex-Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka and Chairman. Task Force for “Recovery of public land & its protection”, talked about what the government must do for protecting lake eco-system. As Bangalore is located 3000 ft above sea level and not on the bank of any river, lakes play a vital role in upkeeping the ground water level. To have water in the lakes, there were 840 KM or Raja-kaluves has almost disappearted. The number of official sewage connections is still around 8 lakhs though the population has gone to 9 million which gives a clear indication that most sewage ends into storm water n/w and into lakes.

K P Singh, member, One Bengaluru for Lakes and Bhoomi Network summarised the various success stories in lake rejuvenation. It includes stories of Agara lake, Kaikondrahalli lake, Hebbal lake, JAkkur lake, Hosahallikere and Halanayakanahallikere. He talked about the effort put in by citizens group in bringing about an improvement in these lakes. These success stories are in addition to the success stories shared in the workshop in November 2013.

Usha Rajagopalan, Chairperson, Puttenahalli Neighborhood Improvement Trust and Surendra Kulkarni, Ex General Manager (Tech) GE Plastics, Ex-head and Research Director SABIC spoke about the challenges and approaches for lake eco-system.

Usha said, “Rejuvenating a lake is meaningless if it is not followed with proper maintenance.” Drawing from their own grassroots experience of maintaining Puttenahalli Lake, J.P. Nagar and those of other citizen groups and agencies currently maintaining a lake, she addressed common concerns and issues. She talked about two main approaches for lake maintenance. PNLIT follows the path of public participation and events for fund raising as opposed to collecting fund from external agencies. According to  her, this leads to greater community participation. They worked with Government agencies to get alternative land site allotted for poor people who were living on lake bed and help them relocate. This helped in avoiding legal complications. She also talked about funding from United Way Bengaluru and CSR fund that a lake team can easily get for lake maintenance.

Kulkarni said, “Lake revival involves several key factors covering sound science and aesthetics. The revived lake should serve the dual purpose of holding water, as well as, nurture the fauna and flora. The CSR route can bring in different corporates and commercial organisations to pitch in for lake revival, thus accelerating the efforts of Government agencies.” He presented the case of B. Hosahalli Lake as an example.

Dr. Arbind Gupta President, One Bengaluru for Lakes talked about the campaign.

Many NGOs have also been working at legal, technical level and running campaigns and seminars to bring awareness. Slowly most of them have come to realize that individually we are all doomed to fail and need to fight this battle as the challenges and proble are mostly similar for all lakes. They have all come under one banner, to run a citywide campaign to focus on the key demands.

The OBL campaign will run for about six month focusing on –

(a) increase awareness about lakes and get people’s support for the petition;

(b) organize seminars at regular intervals on different key challenges in lake rejuvenation with experts; (c) work with various lake tea for collecting ground level data.

People can join the OBL campaign and support reaching to people by arrangibg meeting in their offices, neighbourhoods, schools and colleges; Citizens can volunteer and join their local lake tea as well as participate in lake walkathon, tree plantation, lake clean up activities etc.

Meera K, a member of the Bellandur Forum, presented the memorandum on key demands and action plan needed from the government, drawn from the grassroots experience of various lake tea including MAPSAS (that works on a number of lakes in Mahadevapura, including KaikondarahalliKere)

She pointed out the confusing plethora of departments that now manage different lakes should be replaced with one agency that looks after all lakes in Bangalore. And that agency should ideally be the BBMP, since it comprises of elected councillors, who can be more answerable to the people, for the allocation of the funds that are sanctioned. Within the BBMP, one department should be in charge of the lake, the buffer zone and the Raja-Kaluves and equipped to protect all lake-related things including kaluves, surveys and sewage.

All lake work should involve local community participation. Communities associated with the lake vicinity will need to have a say in how the lake is maintained so each lake can be adaptive to its surroundings and needs of the citizenry.

The participants feel Bengaluru has shown the way with the successful restoration of many of its lakes, with recent examples in Kaikondrahalli lake. The onus is now on the people and government of Karnataka to emulate the model to scale to more and more lakes in Bengaluru.

This content is provided by Namma Bengaluru Foundation through a press note, and published here as part of Message Forward, a service for non-profit public interest messages.

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  1. G. Chandrashekar says:

    Good beginning. These type of programme should be conducted regularly so that awareness can be created among public. Doddabommasandra lake near Vidyaranyapura also should be cleared of encroachment. Lake Development Authority has not done anything to this lake and the lake now got dried. Atleast sewage water should be stopped getting into this lake.

  2. Alex Thomas says:

    I had initiated a request to revive the Horamavu Agara Tank into a Tourist Spot. All it needs are as follows: Desilting, making a Compacted-Mud gravel-top walkway around the perimeter and repair to existing fencing that has been allowed to rust away. An entrance gate would help keep the precincts clean and anti-socials out. This low-cost approach with just a clay walk-way topped with loose gravel or 5-15mm crushed granite jelly is sustainable, without needing huge capital-intensive intervention. Hardy shady trees like Singapore Cherry could be planted around the perimeter. This matter should be taken up on priority for all water tanks, to prevent the water table in Bangalore sinking any further.

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