Sewage choking the few lakes left

Bangalore is now facing acute water shortage due to rapid depletion of ground water table and disappearing water bodies, says the report of the Committee constituted by the High Court following a petition by a City-based NGO, Environment Support Group. The committee, headed by Justice N K Patil, has called for immediate protection measures by clearing encroachment and regular maintenance of the lakes.

The committee, formed to examine the ground realities and prepare an action plan to preserve lakes, has blamed encroachers for the depleting water bodies, while the indiscriminate waste and sewage disposal has resulted in their pollution.

Comprising nine top officials, including five IAS officers and three IFS officers, the committee has stated that the report of the Joint Legislative Committee headed by A T Ramaswamy in 2007 cited 2,488 cases of lake encroachment and mentioned that 1,848 acres of lake area had been encroached by land grabbers and builders by fabricating documents.

Mentioning that even government organisations like the BDA contributed to the problem by converting wetlands like Agara, Saneguruvanahalli, Chikkamarenhalli, Kacharakanahalli, Geddalahalli, Chelkere into sites, the report said several lake areas were diverted for road projects. “The outer ring road constructed in early 1990s used Agara, Iblur, Mahadevapura and Nagavara lakes,” the report said. The Committee stated that the trouble began when the City started getting potable water from Cauvery, citing the Lakshman Rau Committee report which mentioned that 43 lake beds were used for public purpose way back in 1985.

The report also pointed out that the land sharks encroaching on storm water drains (SWDs) has resulted in lakes drying up. It has suggested immediate measures such as live fencing of lakes that are not encroached upon, or are partially destroyed.
Outdated sewage network letting sewage into lakes has caused enormous pollution of lake water resulting in unhygienic conditions.

In addition, the town municipal councils and villages newly added to the BBMP jurisdiction have no under ground drainage network, with sewage from houses entering nearby lakes, rendering the residential areas around the lakes polluted, unhygienic and stinking.
“The Lake Development Authority (LAD), which carried out water analysis of 86 lakes in the City during the year 2009-10, found 39 lakes to be highly polluted and 47 moderately polluted,” the report says.

“The problem is so serious that even water in some of the borewells in three valley regions has been unfit for consumption as per the water study conducted in 2008,” says the report. Stating that the City cannot be dependent on Cauvery water after Stage IV, the report suggests pro-active planning and implementation to cater to future needs.


Leo Saldanha 
Co-ordinator, Environment Support Group

This is a rare instance where the judiciary has brought together various public authorities who otherwise fail to coordinate their actions. The petitioners and other experts have evolved a time-bound model to rehabilitate existing lakes in an ecologically wise and socially just manner and evict encroachers of lakes and SWDs immediately.

Strategies                                           

* Survey lakes, remove encroachments and fix boundary stones.
* Maintain 30 metres buffer around a lake, ensure no construction around it.
* Carry out annual inspection of lakes.
* Select lakes are to be developed for augmenting water supply to the City as it cannot draw Cauvery water beyond its allocation.
* Set up sewage treatment plants instead of diverting sewage, which will lead to drying up of lake.
* The BDA should not acquire lake area and allot sites, but it should survey the lakes, storm water drains and make provision for buffers. SWDs and underground drainages are to be laid out before sites are allotted.


Recommendations 
*The government may
examine extending scope and jurisdiction of Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force to clear lake encroachments.
* A separate cell should be created in the Revenue
Department for survey of lakes in the City with 100 dedicated surveyors.
* Impose green cess for maintenance of restored lakes.


Additional info


* Tanks in Bangalore region within BMRDA region spread across 12,541-hectare area.
*The BBMP area has 189 lakes, of which 129 are with the BBMP, 44 with the BDA, 11 with the LDA and five with the Karnataka Fisheries Department.

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