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Bengaluru's Hebbal Lake back with forest department

Hebbal lake is among the water bodies still under the custody of the forest department
Last Updated : 27 October 2022, 22:54 IST
Last Updated : 27 October 2022, 22:54 IST
Last Updated : 27 October 2022, 22:54 IST
Last Updated : 27 October 2022, 22:54 IST

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An Oberoi Group company maintaining Hebbal lake since 2006 will not get to maintain it any longer.

In October 2021, then principal chief conservator of forests Sanjai Mohan had recommended renewal of the lease, sparking outrage among activists opposing the government’s move to “privatise” public commons.

Leo F Saldanha, trustee of the Environment Support Group, wrote to the department that any move to renew the lease would be a direct violation of the November 2008 order of the high court (in writ petition 817/2008).

The court had held that the Lake Development Authority should “not enter into any fresh agreement with whomsoever and with reference to whatsoever lake is concerned”.

Hebbal lake is among the water bodies still under the custody of the forest department. The custody was renewed two months ago.

The forest department has turned down EIH’s request for a 15-year extension of the maintenance lease.

Spread over 192 acres and 19 guntas, the lake was leased to EIH for 15 years from May 19, 2006. When the lease expired in May 2021, the company sought renewal. “After two rounds of discussion, the department has decided not to entrust lake management to the company,” a source said.

Additional Chief Secretary for the Department of Forest, Ecology and Environment Jawaid Akhtar confirmed the development.

“We have decided not to lease the lake to any private company or agency,” he told DH.

Responding to the development, Saldanha said besides the danger of commercialisation, providing custody of lakes to private agencies is against the public trust doctrine.

“Public commons, from lakes to grazing lands, should remain in the hands of the people,” he said.

The Oberoi Group didn’t respond to DH’s emails and phone calls.

The forest department has approached the BBMP for funds to maintain the lake.

Deputy Conservator of Forests S S Ravishankar said, “We have to make the lake public-friendly and safe. We need staff to clean it as well. All of this might cost about Rs 15 lakh a year,” he said. The BBMP has not responded to his request yet.

K V Shashikumar, BBMP chief engineer (lakes), said decisions on funds and lake custody had to be taken at the secretariat level.

“We at the BBMP can’t take any decision on such matters,” he said.

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Published 27 October 2022, 19:17 IST

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