Citizens take action as government bodies fail to revive lakes

People living in Bangalore take proactive steps as government shrugs off responsibilities for lake rejuvenation.

The construction of Ambedkar Bhawan on a lake bed

Bangalore, November 21, 2017: Government apathy and active citizen participation in cleaning up of city lakes is making news again.

United Bangalore, an umbrella organization for Resident Welfare Associations, experts and environmentally conscious citizens conducted an inspection of over 35 lakes in the city.

The inspection concluded that the encroachment and discharge of industrial effluents are rampant in most of the lakes.

HS Doreswamy, a freedom fighter from Bangalore filed a complaint in the Karnataka Lokayukta against government officials for “Dereliction of Duty” in August this year. The first hearing for the case took place 10 days ago.

Suresh NR, Convener of United Bangalore, spoke about the response of the government officials to the complaint filed at Lokayukta. “The officials said that they are only the custodian of the lakes. The Revenue Department is responsible for conducting surveys and finding details on encroachments after which they can begin the rejuvenation process,” he said.

He also added that once the rejuvenation process begins, the government bodies should make sure that the lake is fenced.
The officials against whom the complaint was filed include Manjunath Prasad, BBMP commissioner; Rajkumar Khatri, BDA commissioner; and T.M Vijay Bhaskar, Chairman of BWSSB.

On Sunday, a lake festival had taken place in Marathalli to save the Mahadevapura Lake. This was to create awareness about saving water bodies in the city. Krishna VP, President of KR Puram Constituency Welfare Federation said, “The Mahadevapura Lake is dying. When we approached the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), we were told that they lacked funds to rejuvenate the lakes.”

Dhananjaya Govind, who has been associated with the lake’s rejuvenation for the last five years, spoke about how the land around the lake was being used for farming 15 years ago. He also said that the government starts constructing buildings as soon as it declares a lake “dead.”

“This year, with ample rainfall, the lake bed has 15 feet of water. Now, the government has decided to build the Ambedkar Bhawan on the same land. How can you declare a lake dead and begin construction when it still has water?” he asks.
“My research on the history of Bangalore’s lakes have shown that lakes die out when people fail to connect with them on a socio-cultural level or are not made a part of decision making around the water bodies,” said Dr. Hita Unnikrishnan, Professor at Premji University who holds a doctorate on Bangalore lakes.

Gautam Mishra, member of Whitefield Rising, a campaign for lake protection,  said that they had filed an RTI to check the level of encroachment around the Pattandur Agrahara Lake.

Hita said, “Active citizen participation is one of the benchmarks in lake conservation. Bangalore has some good examples: the Kaikondrahalli lake in Sarjapur, the Jakkur lake in Jakkur and the United Bangalore collective are great examples of collective actions.”

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