‘Sweeping powers to KTCDA mean govt has sold out lakes’

‘Sweeping powers to KTCDA mean govt has sold out lakes’

New agency can permit roadwork in tank area without govt permission

DH Graphic/Gangadhar RA

In a blatant disregard for the conservation of waterbodies, the state government has given sweeping powers to the newly formed Karnataka Tanks Conservation and Development Authority (KTCDA).

The new agency can allow building roads, bridges and allied works inside the tank area, including the tank bund.

Section 12 (iii) of the act, establishing the agency, stated that the KTCDA can allow construction activities only after ensuring that the tank’s original capacity does not diminish as a result. The act also gives the agency power to take such decisions without having to seek the government’s permission.

Experts and KLCDA officials feel the government is preparing to look the other way if the officials in the agency allow projects that might endanger the water sources.

Officials in Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA), which is closing down files and preparing to officially transfer their works to KTCDA, urged the government to quickly amend the act. “This is a major problem. Though we had the powers, we couldn’t register cases against government agencies and realtors acting in violation. With the (act), the government shows it would turn the other way,” said a KLCDA official, seeking anonymity.

He said terms like “without permission of the government” (found in the act) would only give more powers to minor irrigation department officials, who may not think twice before altering the land course.

Conservationists fear that the government is virtually letting lakes be acquired. “In the name of keeping the lake’s carrying capacity unaltered, they are only allowing more encroachment. There is no such thing as rated capacity. A lake’s carrying capacity keeps changing with time. Anyone can dig a pit on one side of the lake to increase its capacity and acquire land on the other side,” said Nagesh Aras, a lake activist.

R Rudraiah, secretary at the Department of Water and Minor Irrigation, said the government will not allow any roadworks, but could not prevent existing works or upgrades.

Rudraiah said roadworks for public welfare will be given priority, clarifying that the capacity of the lake would mean its original holding capacity during its first survey.