Forest dept opposes chainlink fence around lake

Soil mined from the bed of the Hessaraghatta Lake. DH Photo/Srikanta Sharma R.

 The proposal to construct a solid block compound and chainlink fence around Hessarghatta Lake, on the northern outskirts of the city, to prevent sand mining has not gone down well with the forest department.

The lake falls under the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and the agency has submitted the proposal before the Lokayukta to construct the fencing at a cost of Rs 8.98 crore.

Interestingly, there is a divide on this proposal within the BWSSB. 

The forest department officials said the lake and its surroundings are rich in biodiversity. There are gomal lands around the lake and many herbivores depend on the lake. "We do not agree with the BWSSB's idea to fence and build a compound around the lake. There are BWSSB offices and quarters around. They can deploy watch-and-ward security and solar fence at critical areas where sand mining cases are reported," the official said.

The area is home to many birds, including peafowls, kingfishers and Indian Roller (state bird of Karnataka). Vermin, wild boars and small herbivores have made the area their home. There have been occasional leopard sightings also since the area is close to the Jarakabande sandalwood forest and Arkavathy Reserve Forest.

A visit to the lake by DH revealed that sand/soil mining was rampant in the buffer zone of the lake near the tourist gate. Marks of soil excavated in layers were visible. There are clear demarcations indicating the levels at which the soil has been excavated and can be extracted.

To check the irregularity, the BWSSB created a temporary trench to stop the entry of JCBs and trucks a few days ago. But according to locals and forest staffers, this had little impact as miners have already started filling the trench with the excavated mud, creating a free access.

There is no need to barricade the area with a chainlink fence and concrete blocks all around the lake, said a BWSSB official. On one side, the lake boundary is shared with the Karnataka Milk Federation, and on the other, there is the Central Poultry Development Organisation and Training Institute. A part of the boundary of the lake is connected to the channels and waste weirs, which also cannot be fenced, the official told DH.

 

Fence facts

  • Lake spread across 1,224.21 acres; capacity of reservoir is 1,100 mcft
  • B Dhananjay, executive engineer, BWSSB, Hessarghatta Lake, reasoned that fencing was required to control illegal activities and protect lake water. He said that a threat of water mafia and encroachment looms large
  • BWSSB intends to start work from September 15 and complete it in one year
  • A total of 22 km of lake boundary will be fenced
  • Areas around KMF and connecting the forest will be fenced accordingly

 

Fence planned after Lokayukta directive

The Lokayukta had taken up a suo motu complaint based on a newspaper report about water being unauthorisedly taken from the reservoir and also about encroachments.

After the Lokayukta sought a report, BWSSB officials — additional chief engineer Srinivas T R along with executive engineer K Dhananjaya and others — submitted the proposal.

"It is proposed to provide chainlink fencing surrounding the Hessaraghatta tank. As such, an estimation has been prepared for the said work, amounting to Rs 8.98 crore, based on the SR of BWSSB for the year 2017-18. In the estimate, provisions are made for earthwork excavation, sand, boulder filling for the foundation and basement, and solid block work for the compound wall, among others, for safe and smooth execution of the work," the report stated.

The BWSSB officials submitted that once the tender is finalised, the fencing of the lake area may take around one year, if the work is entrusted to a single contractor.

Lokayukta Justice P Vishwanath Shetty directed the BWSSB to complete the work within three to five months and file a status report by October 16.

"How the work is entrusted and the procedure required to be followed is left to the board of the BWSSB to decide as per the rules. It is needless to point out that the BWSSB is required to ensure that when huge money is being spent to protect the lake, the execution of the work should not be unduly delayed on account of lack of infrastructure on the part of the contractor," Justice Shetty stated.

 

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Forest dept opposes chainlink fence around lake

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