Environment Support Group

Activating a Lake Protection Committee in your district

Karnataka High court ruled in Environment Support Group (ESG) lakes case (WP 817/2008) on 11 April 2012 that every district would have a lake protection cmt to entertain any complaint or proposal to protect and rehabilitate lakes and Raja kaluves for posterity – as biodiversity and livelihood rich wetlands. In case the district Cmts failed to resolve the concern or dispute, a quasi judicial body at the state level headed by the Revenue Secretary along with Member Secretary of Karnataka State Legal Services Authority would attend to the grievance.

This was in response to Our prayer for a schema for participatory management, protection and rehabilitation of lakes and Raja kaluves across the state – there are 40000 lakes left (we may have lost over 10000 in the recent past).

Such an accessible decision making and conflict resolution forum at the local level would ensure committees would not rush to the High Court to resolve lake-related disputes. Instead, such forums could help build a truly participatory process to build water, livelihood and ecological security. It would help build trust in each other for advancing a common cause – and in an inclusive manner. (Currently, several urban lake conservation efforts are exclusive – responding essentially to middle class, elite and corporate imaginaries.)

To ensure that there is money for this unprecedented effort, in the case of Bangalore lakes at the very least, the Court extracted a commitment from the State Govt, BBMP and BDA that at least ₹50 crores each would be budgeted for the exercise. When Sadananda Gowda was CM And Finance Minister, such an allocation was made. If this budgetary allocation was sustained, we would have had about ₹ 1000 crores to support this remarkable community effort.)

Even though the Lake Protection Cmts were formed after ESG filed a contempt petition in 2013, by a rather reluctant Govt Order, these Cmts were not made functional. Complaints could not be entertained as meetings were not held.

When Citizens Action Group filed a case for restoration of Raja kaluves and lakes in Bangalore (WP 38401/2014), as the matter progressed ESG and I (as part in person) intervened. Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Abhay Oka accepted our interventions and looked into our grievance that the 2012 WP 817/2008 order was yet to be implemented.

Chief Justice Oka issued a series of orders to ensure these Cmts were set up and made functional. He highlighted how the State was bound by Public Trust Doctrine to ensure lakes and Raja kaluves are protected for posterity and rehabilitated as commons. He directed the State to provide widespread publicity to the existence of these decision making and conflict resolution fora, accessible to the wide public, and the result is what you see in today’s advt.

ESG encourages everyone across the state to use these innovative instruments so we can restore all 40000 lakes and their interconnecting Raja kaluves, and perhaps build 1000s more to secure the futures of future generations. If we achieved that and ensured water guzzling human activities is made a thing of the past (by reforming urban, industrial and farming sectors)- it takes 2-3 years, then Karnataka would be the first water secure state based largely on surface flows and rainwater harvesting. Which means we would ensure no one has to struggle to access water, farms would be productive, animal husbandry would flourish (as when lakes dry up in summer they turn into grazing pastures), and millions of rural youth need not rush to cities for tiring jobs as taxi drivers. They can continue to be healthy and prosperous farmers.

For Bangalore, and other cities, implementing this order by engaging with Lake Protection Cmts would mean there is a high possibility of Ward Cmts organising lake and Raja Kaluve rejuvenation efforts (so that lake protection is an inclusive effort). In this way we could enjoy 840 kms of pollution free Raj kaluves as commons, replete with wooded areas and high biodiversity, and our city lakes would be spaces for watching birds, reflecting, de-stressing, even support livelihoods through urban gardening and fish farming, etc.

So come along and join this movement.

For more details on how to use the lake protection Cmts, see: https://esgindia.org/new/campaigns/lakes/saving-lakes-using-judicial-orders-issued-in-esg-pils/.

For details of the ongoing litigation: https://esgindia.org/new/education/karnataka-high-court-directs-state-to-ensure-karnataka-lakes-are-protected-per-2012-order-in-esg-pil/

(Hundreds of individuals and organisations have helped make this a reality. The tieless effort of ESG team and the unstinting support extended by our families has been fundamental to securing the implementation of the 817 order.)

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