At least 4,500 acres of lake land grabbed in Bengaluru

4,500 acres of lake land grabbed in Bengaluru Urban (and it's an underestimate)

The number is certain to go up once the survey includes the lake buffer zones, officials said

A bird's-eye view of Bellandur Lake, Bengaluru's largest, shows encroachments and dumping of debris. Credit: DH file photo

Bengaluru has lost more than 4,500 acres of lake area to encroachments and this is only an understatement, according to a preliminary survey of 837 lakes carried out by the district administration.

The number is certain to go up once the survey includes the lake buffer zones, officials said.

Here are some key stats from the survey:

* Only 91 lakes didn’t have any encroachment.

* The 837 lakes surveyed had an area of 22,810 acres and 32 guntas; the encroachment has claimed 20% of the total lake area. A ground-truth survey will determine the final extent of encroachment.

* In line with studies that have flagged the loss of natural environment in peri-urban areas, 223 lakes in the Anekal taluk have been encroached upon, followed by 188 in Bengaluru South, 122 in Bengaluru North, 116 in Bengaluru North (Additional) and 95 in Bengaluru East.

Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner J Manjunath had ordered the survey of all the lakes in the district on June 15 to assess the extent of encroachment and what needs to be done to restore the waterbodies. The lakes are managed by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the Bangalore Development Authority and the zilla panchayat.

Speaking to DH, the deputy commissioner said there were three types of encroachment on the lake land. “First, farmers start cultivating on the lake bed. Second, poor and homeless people erect tin sheds. These two are people who most often understand that it is a temporary arrangement. It is those who build proper houses and other physical structures that affect the most. Nevertheless, all the encroachments have to be evicted by keeping human rights in mind. Ground-truth survey is very important to save every inch of land belonging to a waterbody,” he explained.

Manjunath said a meeting would decide on issues like the cut-off date for construction and the measures to remove confusion over the land ownership. “We need holistic development of lakes beyond fencing and other protection. So we are planning to mobilise resources through corporate social responsibility,” he added.

A bigger task is to assess the encroachment of the 30-metre buffer zone as per the orders of the National Green Tribunal. Officials plan to come up with long-term measures to protect the buffer zone as well as stormwater drains that feed the lakes.

Caretakers for ‘orphan’ lakes

Of the 837 lakes included in the preliminary survey, officials could not find the caretakers for more than 125 lakes.

“The lake is there but there is no clarity as to who has to protect and take care of it. Such a situation makes lakes vulnerable to encroachment. These issues will be resolved soon,” an official said.

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