Institutions that are in charge of water supply in metropolises must be empowered and made accountable, and treat lakes as an asset, says S. Vishwanath

The city has been making large investments in improving its water bodies. Lakes have seen boundaries being defined, bunds being improved, fences being put up, walking tracks laid, trees being planted, and waters being stored.

In the evening, observing the tranquil water body with the fishermen in coracles on their evening catch and the birds returning home is a soul lifting experience.

These water bodies are not only ecological spaces but also perform an incredibly important one of recharging the groundwaters in the environs. With its 400,000 or so borewells entirely dependent on the lakes for keeping them alive it is imperative that the lake waters be clean and percolate.

Unfortunately an old malady strikes, the penchant to build but not be able to maintain a system well.

Within months fences are broken, bunds are fissured, garbage strewn all over the place and people using this water body as a defecation ground. While lakes are community spaces, vandalism does not count as community use.

Action needed

We have to create institutions that will take ownership and maintain the lake as an asset.

Institutions such as the Lake Development Authority, as the name itself suggests, do not seem to be good at becoming lake management authorities.

Community-based ownership models have simply not shown endurance with the initial enthusiasm waning after some years.

It is therefore best that the water bodies be handed to agencies such as the water utility which should slowly transform itself to become an integrated water management utility, responsible and managing piped water, ground water, surface water, rain water and treated waste-water.

Unless we invest in creating new institutions that are able to face the challenge of managing water in a metropolis, unless we arm them with adequate skills and monies, unless we empower them and then hold them accountable, all our efforts at trying to restore lakes will be a Sisyphian endeavour, doomed to repetition and failure.

The city has been a pioneer at many an interesting water endeavour, it is time to show the way in managing its lakes.