The frothing and highly polluted Bellandur lake, the rejuvenation of which is being monitored by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for the past two years, has become an albatross around the Bangalore Development Authority’s neck.
Senior officials want to wash their hands of the city’s largest lake, and no other agency is keen to take over the task.
A senior BDA official said the development authority was “stuck” with the lake even though it did not have the technical expertise to rejuvenate it. “The BDA is a commercial organisation that seeks revenue for its expenditure. Its main functions are city planning and housing. Bellandur lake figures nowhere in this matrix. An organisation with liabilities of nearly ₹5,000 crore cannot take up the rejuvenation of this lake,” the official said.
BDA officials have urged the State government to direct concerned agencies such as the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) to take over the custody of the lake. “All waterbodies in the city must be in the custody of the civic body, in this case the BBMP. Moreover, the BDA has no mandate over the solution for the lake and it is the BWSSB that has to solve the untreated sewage inlet problem by building STP infrastructure. It is better hand over the lake to BWSSB itself,” BDA officials reason.
The BDA has been pulled up multiple times by the NGT for its inefficacy.
It’s not just Bellandur lake that the BDA wants to be absolve responsibility of. In 2010, when B.S. Yeddyurappa was Chief Minister, the custody of over a hundred lakes were shifted from BBMP to BDA.
“At the time, the decision was met with opposition from several activists. The BDA now has the custody of 60 lakes in the city, while for BBMP it is 110 lakes. We want none of it,” BDA officials say.
Other agencies not keen
However, neither the BBMP nor BWSSB are willing to take up the gauntlet.
BBMP commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said that it was the State government that had given custody of Bellandur lake to BDA and the civic body would present its case before the government on the issue.
It has always argued that it has no funds for rejuvenation or even maintenance of lakes in Bengaluru.
The BBMP city budget for 2018-19 earmarked ₹20 crore for rejuvenation of 40 lakes and ₹10 crore for maintenance of 110 lakes, funds which even BBMP concedes is meagre.
Activists, however, agree with BDA’s case and argue that all the city’s waterbodies must come under the purview of the BBMP as per 74th Amendment of the Constitution. “It is only when the lakes are with BBMP that citizens can participate in its governance,” said Sharatchandra Lele, member, Expert Committee for Rejuvenation of Bellandur Lake.
On the role of BWSSB, Mr. Lele said its mandate must be expanded to include integrated water management in the city and it must be held accountable. “For instance, the BWSSB Board doesn’t even have an ex-officio member from BBMP to question its plans and working affecting the larger city,” he argued. “The State needs to spend on lake rejuvenation in the city and spend it through BBMP,” he said.
BDA to ask ASC Centre to help in security, maintenance
In the backdrop of attempts to hand over the custody of Bellandur lake to another agency, the BDA has decided to once again approach the ASC Centre, Bengaluru, seeking help to guard and maintain the waterbody. A senior BDA official said that despite marshals being deployed, dumping of debris and man-made fires remain a problem.
“We had earlier requested ASC Centre to guard the lake to prevent any such human intervention, and de-weed the lake regularly to prevent fires, but the proposal fell through. We will request them again,” the official said.
BWSSB dumping dug up earth in buffer zone?
Marshals deployed to guard Bellandur lake stopped BWSSB work to lay a water pipleine in the vicinity on Monday, as the contractor was dumping the dug up earth in the lake’s buffer zone. Sources said the contractors did not have permission from BBMP to dump the dug up earth in the area. Following this, the BWSSB on Tuesday wrote to the Joint Commissioner, Mahadevapura, providing assurance that it would fill up the trench dug with dug up earth soon after the work was completed.