STEM The TIDE
POINT 10: We need to act fast to ensure that lung spaces and lakes of the city are not lost forever
Written by Dipannita Das for The Times of India 13 June 2008
There were 159 water bodies spread over 2,342 hectares in Greater Bangalore region in 1973. They plunged to 93 over 918 hectares in 2007.
Rapid industralization and urbanization have taken a heavy toll on water bodies in the city limits. It is a fact, that there has been sharp decline of these water bodies, and the major concern lies in its encroachment, privatization, indiscriminate discharge of sewage and industrial effluents dumped on a regular basis.
What is the right model of lake development to restore and protect the remaining water bodies?
Looking at the innumerable importance of these valuable resources, environmental experts feel that it needs to be urgently addressed and understood. Considering the extent of lake encroachment in the city, experts see it’s time for revamping the Lake Development Authority (LDA), an autonomous regulatory body created in 2002, for conversion and restoration of lakes. Financial constraint is the main reason preventing LDA from restoring all lakes. Experts say there should be an act that defines LDA and makes it mandatory. There should be an end to outsourcing of staff in LDA and recruitment of permanent staff. With just 3-4 staff members, it is difficult to protect and restore lakes.
As custodians of lakes, how can LDA privatize lakes? Many environmentalists have raised this issue. LDA has leased four lakes for 15 years and seven on adoption policy for five years. According to experts, lakes are manmade and privatization has curtailed people the accessibility to enjoy the open space. It is against legal norms relating to management and conservation of such ecologically sensitive water bodies which are also wildlife habitats. It also takes away traditional rights, especially of fishing communities and their livelihoods.
Environment Support Group (ESG) has submitted a PIL against the ongoing privatization of three lakes (Hebbal, Nagawara and Agara) by the LDA. These lakes were rehabilitated recently and now handed over to private profit-making entities under the guise of rehabilitation, restoration and maintenance, and is a highly questionable exercise of authority, the PIL says. On the construction of the layout and sites being developed in the catchment areas, environmentalists believe there is a need for legislation that can curtail construction of building in catchment areas of water bodies. Encroachment in the catchment area is leading to alteration in topography and affecting hydrological functioning.
The degradation of wetlands is due to unplanned developmental activities, says T V Ramachandra of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc. The uncoordinated pattern of urban growth happening in Greater Bangalore could be attributed to lack of good governance and decentralized administration evident from lack of coordination among many agencies.
Some steps that can be taken up include removal of all encroachment from the catchment areas, treating sewage water before letting it into lakes, banning the dumping of solid waste, removal of encroachment in storm water drain and restoration of lakes already polluted. According to principal conservator of forest A K Verma, it is very important that lakes are developed and have models, as every lake has different problems. There is also a need for watershed management for water recharging in few lakes.
LDA has handed over 17 lakes for development to BBMP and 12 lakes to BDA. A BBMP spokesperson said that two consultants are appointed to look into the strategies and feasibility of restoring these lakes. Once this study is done, the project report will be sent to LDA and on approval, it will be sent to JNNURM for funding. The estimated cost is Rs 180 crore for 17 lakes.
CES survey on water bodies
The study shows that proper catchment areas with vegetation near a lake helps it have water through the year. The previous surface of the catchment area allows water to penetrate and during a lean season, there is a lateral movement of water to the lake.
- There’s been a rise in land surface temperature in the city by 1-2% over a period of time (1992-2007), one reason being depletion in water bodies
- Vegetation has decreased by 32% from 1973 to 1992, by 38% from 1992 to 2002 and by 63% 2002 to 2007
- Nearly 66% of lakes are sewage fed, 14% surrounded by slums and 72% showed loss of catchment area
- Reclamation of lakes for various developmental activities resulted in loss of inter-connectivity in Bangalore district leading to higher instances of floods even during normal rainfall
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