A farewell to Hebbal lake?

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LOSING ITS IDENTITY: A view of the Hebbal lake in Bangalore which will soon serve a different purpose.
LOSING ITS IDENTITY: A view of the Hebbal lake in Bangalore which will soon serve a different purpose.

Divya Gandhi and Swathi Shivanand

East India Hotels Ltd. to use the lake for 15 years for an annual fee of Rs. 72 lakh

The 150-acre water body will soon have floating restaurant

Lake to be fenced, and it will cost

Rs. 20 to enter it

BANGALORE: The Hebbal lake has been drained bone dry, but in a few months you could be sipping a cup of coffee with a few hundred other tourists in Lake View, a restaurant that floats at the centre of the 150-acre water body.

East India Hotels Ltd (EIH), the parent company of the Oberoi group, has bagged a contract from the Lake Development Authority (LDA) in 2006 to “develop” the lake under a public-private partnership. It will turn the lake into this “unique” recreational venue, M. Munireddy, Chief Executive Officer of the LDA, told The Hindu.

The Hebbal lake, one of the largest man-made lakes in the city, was built in the 16th century to meet the area’s water requirements. Hundreds of people – farmers, fishing communities, cattle herders, washermen, and casual workers – depended till recently on this once thriving water body. Its wetland ecology sustained scores of water birds. Sadly, it will soon be little more than a pretty, if “sterile bowl”, according to environmentalists.

Under the terms of the PPP, EIH can use the lake for 15 years on payment to the LDA of Rs. 72 lakh a year with an annual escalation of 1.5 per cent of this sum. Besides a floating restaurant, the lake shore will have a cafeteria, a children’s park, a handicrafts and gift centre, a waterfall and a statue, and a medical centre, all developed for Rs. 16 crore. The lake will be fenced and an entrance fee of Rs. 20 charged. It is expected to attract 2,000 visitors a day.

“People who traditionally depended on the lake will lose access,” says Meera Baindur of the National Institute of Advanced Studies who has studied the history of Karnataka’s lakes.

“The lake will serve only one purpose — recreation for those who can pay.” “We took up the project … with the sole intent of preserving an important natural element of the city,” a communiqué from EIH says.

The Oberoi is building a hotel right in front of the lake, on the other side of the ring road. Hotel guests may gaze upon a pretty water body, but the project will possibly spell “the end of birds”, says S. Subramanya, an avid bird watcher.

“The ecosystem consists of four types of vegetation which grow at different water depths, supporting at least 30 species of birds. But after removing the silt, it will be too deep for some birds such as sandpipers and clovers, while boating will disturb the deep water birds such as ducks and cormorants.”

The project, Dr. Munireddy says, “will at least provide urbanites an avenue for recreation, and keep the place clear of slums”.

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