Bengaluru

Forest Department not to renew lease of Nagawara lake

A private firm was running a water park, boating club and artificial beach around the water body.

A private firm was running a water park, boating club and artificial beach around the water body.   | Photo Credit: G_P_Sampath Kumar

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The water body, which was being controlled by a private firm, will be made ‘public’ again

The Forest Department is unlikely to renew the lease of Nagawara lake to Lumbini Gardens Pvt. Ltd., a firm that was running a water park, boating club and artificial beach at the lake. The department is expected to take over the lake and make it ‘public’ again, something the city's ecological activists have been clamouring for over a decade. At present, one needs to pay an entry fee to enter the premises, which is a bone of contention between locals and the private company.

The 15-year lease to Lumbini Gardens ended in November and the Forest Department took possession of the lake on November 26.

The firm challenged the department’s action in the High Court. The court ordered the department to consider the firm’s representation, dated October 14, to renew the agreement for a further period of 10 years.

The Forest Department deliberated on the plea before deciding not to extend the lease. “Though the final decision is yet to be put to paper, it will be in the negative,” said a senior forest official, who did not want to be named.

Sources claimed that there was pressure from certain political quarters to extend the lease, but the department has put its foot down.

The Hindu has accessed a copy of the letter the Chief Conservator of Forests, Bengaluru region has written to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka over the issue. The letter argues it is legally not possible to extend the lease, quoting a High Court order from 2008. The order, which pertains to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Environment Support Group (ESG) over the commercial development of lakes, bars the government from any fresh agreement with private parties on lakes and “to avoid commercial activities so that the ecology and environment of the lakes and gardens shall be maintained and made available to the common man”.

The letter also accuses the firm of violating several clauses of the agreement, including non-disposal of waste causing pollution of the lake.

Commercial development

Nagawara lake was one of the first lakes to be opened for commercial development in 2004 by the Lake Development Authority, which was followed by a plan to lease out Hebbal, Agara and Vengaiah lakes for a period of 15 years. However, while the Nagawara project took off, the rest did not.

A Special Leave Petition (SLP) by ESG challenging these lease agreements is pending in the Supreme Court.

ESG recently submitted a memorandum to the Forest Department detailing how the government couldn't extend the lease. “The N.K. Patil report on lakes that came out of the PIL ESG filed in 2008 and several other Supreme Court orders have upheld the Public Trust Doctrine upholding all water-bodies as commons, which cannot be handed over to a few, which will be grossly illegal,” said Leo F. Saldanha, co-ordinator, ESG.

V. Ramprasad, convenor, Friends of Lakes, said lakes are common property and cannot be privatised. “We are planning to celebrate the day the lake goes public again as ‘Lake Independence Day’ and will oppose any attempt to extend the lease or privatise any other commons,” he said.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 1:53:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/forest-department-not-to-renew-lease-of-nagawara-lake/article30140233.ece

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