Most of the rejuvenated lakes in the city continue to remain dry despite the passage of time and the recent spell of rains. Of the approximately 150 lakes under its purview, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has developed as many as 75. Work is in progress in 20 lakes while 55 are yet to be developed.
BBMP officials admitted that lakes cannot be dependent solely on rain water. Residents say the lake beds are being used as dumping grounds for garbage and debris. The absence of sewage treatment plants (STPs) even in the rejuvenated lakes and inflow of sewage, either directly or through stormwater drains, has contributed to further deterioration, said civic activists. Numerous citizen initiatives and court intervention have failed to arrest this trend.
With the exception of lakes in Benniganahalli, Garudachar Palya, Devarabeesanahalli, Cholanayakanahalli, Yediyur, Iblur, Somasundara Palya, Haraluru, and Kempambudi, the others are, for the most part, dry.
Pratham M., who lives near Sadaramangala lake where rejuvenation work is currently under way, said that every lake should have at least one STP. “Until and unless there are enough working STPs, the health of the lakes is always at risk. Though the National Green Tribunal (NGT) set up a committee mainly to look at rejuvenation of Bellandur, Varthur and Agara lakes, the fundamental aspects of the committee’s report should be implemented for all lakes in the city. Otherwise, we will lose our precious water bodies,” he said.
The NGT had set up a committee headed by Justice (retd.) N. Santosh Hegde to oversee the protection and rejuvenation of Bellandur, Varthur and Agara lakes. The committee recently submitted its report to the NGT. Recommendations include de-silting, de-weeding, and diversion of sewage.
Lack of coordination among agencies
While accepting the fact that the condition of lakes is deteriorating, a senior BBMP official said that the civic body is taking various steps to tackle this. “Lack of coordination between government agencies, such as Revenue Department, Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), SWD department and the BBMP has hampered the rejuvenation process,” said the official.
V. Ramprasad, founder and convener of the citizens’ initiative Friends of Lakes, says, “Lack of coordination among agencies is a hurdle. None of the lake development projects prioritise quality and quantity of water or flora and fauna. Hence, it is a flawed design. The BBMP’s project is just a civil engineering initiative of beautifying lakes. They have no inputs from hydrologists, immunologists, toxicologists, environmentalists, citizens and other stakeholders,” he alleged. He suggested implementing the principle of integrated water resource management.
Encroachments are a perennial problem.
“SWDs are encroached preventing water from flowing into lakes. Parts of lakes and buffer zones are also encroached upon resulting in erosion of the catchment area. The Revenue Department should take serious and immediate action to clear them as soon as possible,” said another senior BBMP official. “We mainly work on the bed of the lake, de-silting, de-weeding, strengthening the bund, among other things. If the SWDs are blocked or are encroached, then what can we do?” he added.
Lack of funds
Various government agencies, such as BBMP, BWSSB, BDA, Minor Irrigation Department, KSPCB and the Revenue Department are all responsible for the development of lakes in the city, but funds are limited, said a senior official.
Key role for BWSSB
The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board has a key role to play in the protection and development of lakes. It is not only responsible for setting up STPs near lakes, but also has to ensure that sewage does not enter stormwater drains.
“The process is quite complex. STPs in all the lakes, or at least the major lakes is the game changer. Reviving urban lakes is a difficult task due to urban specific constraints,” a BWSSB official said.
Another challenge is the rapid and largely unplanned urbanisation, which has changed the flow pattern of water.
“Considering such complexities, the budget allotted for rejuvenation is less. Each department should get enough funds and be given more powers to function effectively. A holistic approach is the only way ahead,” the BWSSB official said.
(This is the first of a two-part series on the fate of Bengaluru’s lakes)