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Saving Lakes Using Judicial Orders issued in ESG PIL’s

Demonstrated using the example of Krishnarajapura Kere

On 11th April 2012, a Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court issued a final order in a Public Interest Litigation filed by ESG (WP 817/2008) seeking an end to the policy of privatisation of lakes, and for advancing a participatory schema that would assist protection and rehabilitation of lakes (and their canal networks) in Bangalore and across Karnataka.

A direct result of this PIL is that the State Government enacted a special law to protect lakes and its canals (raja kaluves) across the state The Karnataka Tank Conservation And Development Authority
And Certain Other Law (Amendment) Act, 2018.

Compliance with judicial directives and laws has been weak largely due to lack of coordination between different agencies, systemic inadequacies, weak (or no) participatory planning and lethargic responses to encroachment and pollution of lakes and other wetlands. In order that these systemic inadequacies are fixed so lakes are protected for posterity, ESG joined a PIL on a similar cause initiated by Citizen Action Group (WP 38401/2014) and assisted the Karnataka High Court in issuing a variety of progressive directions that build on similar earlier efforts.

More details about ESG’s ongoing legal and advocacy efforts to secure all lakes and raja kaluves of Karnataka are accessible here: https://esgindia.org/new/education/karnataka-high-court-directs-state-to-ensure-karnataka-lakes-are-protected-per-2012-order-in-esg-pil/

But how does one use all these directives and laws and ensure any lake, pond, raja kaluve, is protected? We provide here an example of ESG’s effort in protecting Krishnarajapura Kere, Mavallipura, North Bengaluru.

Step 1: First survey

We received information that Krishnarajasagar lake in Hesarghatta Hobli of Bangalore North taluk had been encroached. ESG Team visited the lake and field this report:

“Field report from a survey of Krishna Sagar Lake in Avalahalli Forest: The survey starts with a visit to a garbage dumping spot just on the northern edge of Avalahalli Peacock Sanctuary. A garbage segregation center has also been set up, which according to the persons working inside, has BBMP authorisation. Just ahead, mounds of C&D debris along with other kinds of garbage was observed. According to a local resident, the garbage is being used to fill up natural depressions in the area that sit along the edge of the forest. In one spot garbage burning was also noticed. The location of the garbage sorting and dumping areas is such that the slope of the land results in the garbage and other pollutants to flow downstream, polluting the Krishna Sagar Lake [in official documents the lake is identified as Krishnarajapura (Karabu) Katte] and all the other lakes that are part of the same lake network.

It was observed that Dr. NSAM First Grade College sits right next to Forest land and also the Krishna Sagar lake. According to a person who resides next to the college premises, the college has been built on the area over which the stream flowed that fed the lake. So the college premises is located in a manner that it currently obstructs the flow of the stream and threatens submergence of the entire area during the rainy season. The college has apparently also encroaching nearly 5-15 feet of forest department land. According to the local person, the parking lot of the college is completely built on forest land.

In order to accommodate the water from the stream concrete drains have been built inside the college premise that do not look adequate for holding the full capacity of a stream’s flow. 

Krishna sagar lake is a seasonal lake. Currently the lake is in dry condition. The lake is a part of a network of lakes in the area that ultimately feed the Byapanahalli lake.

Step 2: Second survey

Soon after the first survey, a second visit was made to the village to cross-verify with residents of nearby village facts that had been collated, and a brief report was prepared:

“Field Report from the second visit to Krishnarajapura kere: According to Muniraj and Annegowda, residents of the nearby village of Mulappanahalli, the actual name of the lake is Hallakunte. Krishnaraj Sagar is the name of the village where it is located. They said that the lake was not seasonal until 15-20 years back and water used to be available throughout the year. It used to be an important water source for the villagers living around the lake. 

Currently, the lake is no longer perennial. The stream that fed the lake has been blocked, especially by the college. Before the college, rocks had been cut in the area around the lake which severely affected the water availability in the lake. The lake now sits on forest department land. Murarappa, a shepherd, also corroborated what Muniraj and Annegowda said about the lake.

Step 3: Third survey

A third survey was done by Team ESG which aided in collecting more information about the lake and its peripheral area. Below are the pictures from that visit.

Step 4: Writing a representation to relevant authorities to draw their attention to a potential case of lake encroachment

Thereafter, a comprehensive representation was filed on 10th June 2020 addressed to the CEO of Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority (KTCDA) and copying the representation to various connected authorities, viz. Chairman, Technical Committee, KTCDA, Principal Secretary, Revenue Dept., Govt. of Karnataka, Principal Secretary, Ecology, Forests and Environment Dept., Govt. of Karnataka, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bangalore, Karnataka Forest Dept., Commissioner, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike. The representation also contained this graphic description of the historic and current status of the lake.

The Pictorial Representation of Current Status of Lake

Step 5: Responses received from various authorities

1) On receiving ESG’s representation, KTCDA issued directions on 22 June 2020 to the Commissioner Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and District Commissioner, Bangalore Urban District stating that: “(a)s this lake is in your custody, a copy of the representation along with its annexures is being provided to you. We urge you to take emergent action to identify any encroachment and to remove the same in accordance with both the aforementioned orders of the Hon’ble High Court and take all such measures necessary to protect and rehabilitate the lake, and submit the report a report to this authority for further action.”

2) Soon after, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of the Karnataka Forest Department also issued a direction dated 29th June 2020 to the Chief Conservator of Forests, Bangalore Division, to “(p)lease examine carefully all issues and concerns raised in the aforementioned letter, and on conducting site inspection, take necessary action as per the law, prepare a report and provide a copy to the organisation that has made the representation and kindly submit a copy to this office.

3) Following a reminder email from ESG, the Commissioner of BBMP wrote to ESG on 29th June 2020 stating: “Your Mail has been received.  It has been forwarded to [email protected].”

4) On 30 June 2020 the Principal Secretary, Revenue Department (Land Approval-1) wrote to the District Commissioner of Bangalore Urban District informing the receipt of representation regarding encroachment of Krishnarajapura Kere by the Hon’ble Chief Minister’s office. The letter states, “You are directed to take note of the representations cited above….examine thoroughly issues and concerns and take effective action, and seek from the Government any requisite support”.

Principal Secretary’s letter and its English translation

5) Karnataka State Legal Services Authority (KSLSA) wrote a letter on 2nd July 2020 requesting the Chief Secretary of Government of Karnataka and Chief Executive Officer of KTCDA to examine ESG’s representation and provide “a report of action taken .. to this authority as well as the applicant”.

6) However, the Action Taken Report is still awaited. Therefore, on 28 September 2020 ESG filed a representation with the Member Secretary (KSLSA), PCCF (land Records), CEO (KTCDA), Commissioner (BBMP), and DC of Bangalore Urban District to follow up on the status of the Report.

7) On receipt of ESG’s representation, the CEO of KTCDA dispatched a letter, dated 28 September 2020, to the CEO of Zilla Panchayat, Bangalore Urban District directing the Zilla Panchayat to take appropriate action involving spot inspection of the lake and fencing its legal limits and buffer zone in case of encroachment. The letter also directed the Zilla Panchayat to promptly file an action taken report with the KTCDA for it to take further action.

CEO KTCDA letter to CEO Zilla Panchayat and its English translation

8) In a letter dated 7 October 2020, the CEO of KTCDA also wrote to the DC, Bangalore Urban District urging that his office undertakes a spot inspection of the lake to confirm the encroachment, remove them, mark the legal limits of the lake and its surrounding buffer zone and fence it with no further delay. The DC’s office was also requested to issue necessary directions to appropriate officers and tahsildars to comply with the directions of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in WP 38401/2014 and judgement in WP 817/2008 and also produce an action taken report.

CEO KTCDA letter to DC Bangalore Urban District and its English translation

We update this page as and when new developments arise in this case. So, please follow this page to know how this effort develops.

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