Despite revival, many lakes limping back to old state

Frothing at Varthur lake near Varthur kodi on Tuesday morning.

It looks like years of efforts and tons of hard work by activists and civic bodies to rejuvenate lakes in the city have gone futile. Reason: Many are on the verge of losing their ecosystems despite getting a revival boost.

Take for instance, the Kaikondrahalli lake. This water body, being overseen by the citizen group, MAPSAS (Mahadevapura Parisara Samrakshane Mattu Abhivrudhi Samhiti), is in danger, say the members. The lake, they point out, is in bad shape due to entry of sewage over the last few weeks. The heavy stench emanating from it is proof enough.

“We cannot pass within 100ft of the lake without getting nauseated. This is turning into a public health hazard,” says a representative of MAPSAS. The Palike officials, when asked to send workers to block sewage entry, have an alibi: They are on election duty.

Preferring anonymity, the representative notes: “We had asked the fisherman contractor to block the entrance of the major sewage inflow into the lake near the Rajakaluve inlet. The work has begun on Saturday. The fisherman has lost nearly Rs 1 lakh in the recent fish kill due to sewage entry.”

Efforts to rejuvenate Kaikondrahalli lake had begun almost a decade ago. MAPSAS had also considered several other lakes for rejuvenation. The citizen group had put in a lot of private donations, with community participation involving multiple stakeholders.

Even after rejuvenation, Agara lake is going through a battle with a private firm that has moved the High Court to develop the water body according to an earlier lease agreement.

Agara was one of the four lakes handed over to private players by the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) in 2007 on a 15-year lease. The agency that got control of the lake was all set to build an amusement park in the water body, when the High Court stayed all kinds of development work in 2009 on a petition filed by an NGO.

But now, the firm has moved the court again, seeking control of the lake as the KLCDA was dissolved and the water body was handed over to the forest department. “The case is still in the court and no developments have been seen so far. We are afraid the firm may win the case, and the lake which has been rejuvenated with huge public money will fall prey to privatisation,” notes Kavitha Reddy, lake activist and KPCC spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the notorious Bellandur lake that has caught the entire nation’s attention continues to froth and catch fire, despite efforts by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and other civic bodies including the Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and Minor Irrigation Department.

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy had recently allocated Rs 9 crore to set up continuous water monitoring stations at the Bellandur, Agara and Varthur lakes. The state government has also proposed to set up 17 water quality monitoring stations to check water banks in co-ordination with the Central Pollution Control Board.
The city had received moderate showers recently. But this was enough for the highly polluted Bellandur lake to froth again. This has put a dampener on any remote thought of attempting to rejuvenate one of the city’s largest lakes.

The state of the Varthur lake on the downstream of Bellandur lake is no different. This lake had caught fire recently, earning notoriety again. But this was also the first time that the wetland of a lake caught fire. Construction of sluice gates in the lake, a project in progress for years, is yet to be completed.

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