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Recreational centre on Hebbal Lake violates zoning regulations

Not welcome: With the Lake Development Authority leasing out some lakes in Bangalore to private parties to set up recreational parks, environmental groups fear it might affect the bird life that they support.

Not welcome: With the Lake Development Authority leasing out some lakes in Bangalore to private parties to set up recreational parks, environmental groups fear it might affect the bird life that they support.  

Swathi Shivanand and Divya Gandhi

25 more lakes to be leased out to private groups



BDA permission not sought for change in land use

‘Project not taken up with intent of commercial usage’



BANGALORE: Many of Bangalore’s lakes, which have been public spaces by law and tradition, may soon become properties accessible only to a privileged few, as the Lake Development Authority (LDA) continues to lease them to private entities for “restoration and maintenance”.

Lakes at Hebbal, Nagawara and Vengaiahnakere have already been leased for 15 years to East India Hotels Ltd. and Lumbini Developers and ParC Ltd. respectively in public-private partnerships, which have been criticised by many citizens’ groups as being in violation of the law. Twenty-five more lakes in Bangalore and its environs are up for similar contracts that will work on a develop-operate-transfer basis.

The primary legal violation relates to land use. Memorandums of agreement signed between the LDA and the private companies that have taken up the development of Hebbal and Nagawara lakes allow for the conversion of the lakes and its surroundings into recreational spots that include food courts and restaurants.

A senior official of the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) told The Hindu that its permission had not been sought by the LDA for change in land use. New zonal regulations in the Master Plan 2015 allow for some recreational activities on lakes, but not restaurants and gift stores. A 2006 Supreme Court judgement (No. 1251/2006, Intellectuals Forum vs. the State of Andhra Pradesh) states “the tank is a communal property and the State authorities are trustees to hold and manage such properties for the benefit of the community and they cannot be allowed to commit any act or omission which will infringe the right of the community and alienate the property to any other person or body”.

‘The PPPs in respect of Bangalore’s lakes represent a clear contempt of court,’ said Leo Saldanha of the Environment Support Group.

According to Rohan D’Souza of the environmental group Hasiru Usiru, the LDA, by charging an entry fee and fencing the lake, is cutting out large groups of people who have traditionally depended on the lake for their livelihood.

Chief Executive Officer of the LDA M. Munireddy told The Hindu that the Fisheries Department had been asked not to renew the contracts with fishermen at Hebbal Lake.

This is a violation of the PPP agreement itself, which clearly states that it will “respect traditional rights” of the users, according to Mr. D’Souza.

Reacting to The Hindu’s report that appeared on July 25, an East India Hotel’s Ltd. spokesperson said that the project had not been taken up “with an intent of commercial usage and exploitation” but for the “benefit of Bangalore”.

This view is endorsed by the LDA. “It was not taken up because of the paucity of government funds. Both Central and State funds are adequate. It was entirely in the interest of the public that we decided to hand over the development of the lake to the private sector,” said Dr. Munireddy. When asked why hotels and developers appeared to be the preferred partner, he said that they were more effective in “curbing encroachers” and in maintaining “the purity of the water”.

Interestingly, these lakes were restored — silt and weeds removed and cleaned — under various schemes a few years ago. Hebbal Lake was restored under the Indo-Norwegian Environment Programme at a cost of Rs. 2.7 crore, Nagawara Lake at a cost of Rs. 5.19 crore and the Vengaiahnakere at a cost of Rs. 2.55 crore. The LDA was constituted in 2002 as a non-profit society to work in coordination with city utilities and departments for the upkeep of lakes “through community participation” in Bangalore.

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