By Shravan Regret Iyer
Bengaluru: A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) reveals that the garden city has witnessed a sharp decline in the number of water bodies mainly due to extensive urbanisation.
It points out that out of 105 lakes nearly 100 have been encroached to construct illegal buildings such as high-rise apartments, commercial buildings, slums etc. The study also shows how the lost lakes can be revived.
Urbanisation is not the only threat these lakes are facing. The survey reveals that untreated sewage water flows into almost 90 per cent of these lakes, 38 per cent are surrounded by slums and 82 per cent have lost their catchment area. The sorry state of lakes in Bengaluru does not end here.
The remaining catchments are bring used as dumping yards for either municipal solid waste or construction debris! A team of scientists led by Dr T.V.Ramachandra from the Energy and Wetlands Research Group IISc have also done a valuation of the relatively pristine wetlands of Bengaluru in comparison with the polluted wetlands.
The value for relatively pristine wetlands is estimated to be Rs 10,435 per hectare each day while the polluted wetland has a value of Rs 20 per hectare per day.
“All lakes in Bengaluru are contaminated due to the discharge of untreated sewage into it. Land, water and waste mafias have taken over Bengaluru. We need to free all lakes and Rajakaluves (storm water drains) from encroachments. Even today in Varthur lake large scale dumping of construction debris is happening and we need to stop it,” said T.V. Ramachandra.
“There are no lakes which are dead. Because any low lying area does the job of recharging. In that context even if the lake does their job for three to four months during monsoon season is more important. Hence, we need to protect each and every part of the lake for the next generation, otherwise, Bengaluru that is already facing the crisis will be dead,” he added. The study points out that there is still hope. The scientists have come out with a list of solutions to revive all the water bodies.
Saving the few lakes left: Is LDA upto the task?
Over the years, the garden city of Bengaluru has lost most of its water bodies due to rampant encroachment and the indifferent attitude of civic agencies such as the BBMP, BDA, LDA and KSPCB. But the recent order passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), to increase the buffer zone of all lakes in the city to 75 meters and ordering all authorities, particularly the Lake Development Authority (LDA), to carry out this operation in respect of all water bodies and lakes of Bengaluru, has stirred things up a bit. So the most significant question that arises is, can the LDA protect the few remaining water bodies in the city?
To begin with, the recent order by the NGT reads, “In the case of lakes 75m from the periphery the water body is to be maintained as a ‘green belt’ or ‘buffer zone’ for all existing water bodies, i.e. lakes and wetlands. This ‘buffer’ or ‘green zone’ will be treated as a no-construction zone for all intents and purposes. This is absolutely essential for the purpose of sustainable development, particularly keeping in mind the ecology and the environment of the areas in question. All authorities, particularly the Lake Development Authority, shall carry out this operation with respect to all water bodies and lakes in Bengaluru.”
The Former Environment Secretary, Dr. A N Yellappa Reddy said, “The NGT has clearly ordered specific actions to be carried out, as the operational section of the order is quite clear. The Government must act immediately and prepare a clear-cut action plan including policy, required security and all concerned people like BDA, BBMP and other departments while carrying out the operation.”
“The authorities must also take action against those granting permission to build on these wetlands.” Meanwhile, many environmental experts including Dr. Yellappa Reddy feel that the short-staffed LDA should recruit more people to conduct the operation.
This story was originally published in Deccan Chronicle May 10 and May 12, 2016, edition.