Among the prominent violators are BWSSB and temple trusts, says tahsildar’s report

The very picture of neglect — ridden with water hyacinth and garbage and circumscribed by illegal constructions — the Sarakki lake in J.P. Nagar has no fewer than 135 encroachments around its periphery, according to a recent survey by the tahsildar of Bangalore South.

Named in the ‘Encroachers’ List’ are the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), temple trusts, apartment complexes, educational institutes and commercial establishments. The survey report was prepared earlier this week on the direction of the Karnataka High Court, following a petition by the People’s Campaign for the Right to Water (PCRW). The encroachers have each been served notices, says the tahsildar’s report. Among the most prominent violators is the BWSSB, which in its bid to ostensibly save the lake from untreated sewage from the surrounding apartments, has begun constructing a 20-mld ‘intermediate sewage pumping station’ by the lake.

This, according to Kshitij Urs of the PCRW, violates the 30-m no-development buffer zone stipulated around lakes by a Karnataka High Court order. When contacted, Narayana, BWSSB Chief Engineer in charge of the Cauvery Project, told The Hindu that the pumping station would, in the long run be “helpful in protecting the lake from sewage.” The board, he added, had taken permission from the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), which also happens to be in charge of maintaining the Sarakki lake.

14 temples

Mr. Narayana said “no other site was available” for the construction near the lake, and that the BWSSB had a “social obligation” to build the sewage plant “away from the temples”. Indeed, in the last three years alone, no less than 14 temples and shrines have sprung up around the lake’s circumference, according to the tahsildar’s report, which will be submitted to the High Court next week.

The report, however, omits several other areas of concern. M.P. Manjunath of the Sarakki Lake Area Improvement Trust, points out that a road, laid by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), runs like a noose all along the lake bund, again a violation of the 30-m buffer zone. The civic body had also failed to act on the illegal dumping of garbage along the lake boundary, he added.

Diminished

The PCRW has alleged that the lake has shrunk from 86 acres to 60 acres over the last decade. A stark indication of the Sarakki lake’s much-diminished expanse is a blue Forest Department plaque that lies in pieces half a kilometre away from the lake’s current northern limit, and separated from it by a large temple, a playground and a wedding hall.

The abysmal state of the lake is a reflection of the apathy — and some argue, complicity — of several authorities that oversee the lake — which has, over the last decade, changed hands no fewer than four times: between the Forest Department, the Lake Development Authority (which had rejuvenated the lake at Rs. 3.9 crore in 2003), the BBMP and finally, its current custodian, the BDA.

Several attempts by The Hindu to get a response from K. Manjappa, in charge of lakes at the BDA, were unsuccessful.