The Lake Development Authority (LDA) receives a daily barrage of complaints, be it about pollution, encroachment or illegal activities around lakes. But the LDA is a society, not an enforcing agency and it is not much more than a “toothless tiger”, admitted Millo Tago, Chief Conservator of Forests at LDA.

“I don’t have the legal power to take action. All I can do is take the matter to the enforcing authority like Bangalore Development Authority or Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike,” said Mr. Tago at a daylong workshop, ‘Rejuvenating lakes, rivers and wells to make Bangalore water secure’, on Wednesday. The LDA has neither the manpower, the money nor the legal capacity to act against such violations.

The LDA was formed in July 2002, as an “autonomous regulatory, planning and policy body for protection, conservation, reclamation, restoration, regeneration and integrated development of lakes.” It was then tasked with leasing lakes out to private companies for their “development and maintenance” through a public-private-partnership, a controversial management model later challenged in the Karnataka High Court. Leo Saldanha of ESG (Environment Support Group), which organised the workshop, said the concept of private management of common resources such as lakes did not set a good precedent. “Will we privatise Cubbon Park next?” he asked.

Pointing to the challenge of protecting lakes, Mallikarjun, BDA’s Chief Engineer, Lakes (South), said encroachment was so rampant, not least by the “land mafia,” that “it was difficult to identify boundaries of the lakes”.