If you want to do your bit to save the city’s lakes, now is the time to enrol as a lake warden. The newly formed Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) has invited applications from citizens to enrol as lake wardens for Lake Watch Committees.
The committees and wardens — which are models of participative governance — have been in the pipeline for many years, but are only now seeing the light of the day. With a separate committee for each lake, they promise to be the fulcrum of community ownership and participation in the rejuvenation and management of the city’s water bodies.
The KLCDA is the nodal agency. Interested citizens should apply to either the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) or the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) depending on who is in charge of that particular lake.
Responsibilities If selected, they will have to assist authorities check prohibited activities, remove encroachments and perform other such duties.
While lake conservation activists have welcomed the move, they would have preferred more clarity about rules for meetings and powers of the committees.
Kshitij Urs of People’s Campaign for Right to Water said that it is now up to the local community and the custodian agencies to creatively engage and conserve water bodies in each locality. “This creates an accountability loop at the ground level with the community participating in the governance of common assets like lakes,” he said.
But not all are convinced. Wg. Cdr. G. B. Athri (retd.), who is a member on the committee set up by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board for Madiwala and Hulimavu lakes, said that the KLCDA only added to the multitude of nodal agencies for the lake. The newly formed KLCDA has replaced the Lake Development Authority and is armed with a stronger mandate to protect the city’s lakes.
“KSPCB, the statutory body for protection of lakes, has also formed lake watch committees for some lakes. The various bodies need to work in synergy and not in isolation,” he said.
Will the new Act mean more safety for lakes? The legal teeth that the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) had acquired in May to clear encroachments from lakebeds has re-ignited hopes for better management of water bodies.
But activists argue that such hopes have now been dashed with the KLCDA reassigning these powers to officials in the custodian civic agencies — BDA and BBMP — under whose watch lakebeds were encroached over the years.
The Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority Act, 2014 provides for three officers for each lake – Designated officers, Empowered officers and Authorised officers ( see gfx ).
While KLCDA has issued orders making the jurisdictional officers in BBMP and BDA as the designated officers, Ministry of Environment and Forests has appointed six empowered officers, again from the same custodian agency ( see gfx ).
Ajay Mishra, CEO, KLCDA defended the move saying earlier the custodian agencies were not empowered and had to go to the Revenue Department to remove encroachments. The process has been decentralised and the agencies empowered now, he argued.
The cons However, Wg. Cdr. G. B. Athri (retd.) pointed out that the KLCDA Act, 2014 has a clause that appeals against decisions of these officers could be taken to the session’s judge with no further scope for appeal.
“This is a dangerous clause and unconstitutional. Making officials from BBMP and BDA not just the designated officers, but also appellate authorities is laughable, as it amounts to letting a thief guard your property,” he said. He suggests a major overhaul of the KLCDA Act, 2014 if it is not to become a breeding ground for corruption and legalising irregularities.