Once known as the city of lakes, Bengaluru’s lakes are now in the news either because they are frothing with foul smelling foam or because they have caught fire.
The deteriorating condition of the city's lakes has also earned the ire of the country’s top most green court— the National Green Tribunal in April.
The National Green Tribunal in its observation made on April 12, noted that the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) was the “only lake development authority in the world which is causing fire in the lakes”.
However, rather than acknowledging the worsening situation, it seems the Karnataka government wants to run away from the problem.
The state government’s revenue department has reportedly proposed an amendment to Section 68 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act in order to give up responsibility for parts of lakes and other water bodies which have lost their “original features or have dried up”.
This development was first reported by Deccan Herald on July 12. In simple terms, the government will declassify dried up lake bodies and lake beds. This, as DH points out, will be a blessing in disguise for people who have constructed on lakes and lakebeds.
However, the KLCDA which is the nodal authority of all notified water bodies in the states claims it is unaware of such a development, while the DH report mentions that some government departments have given a thumbs up to the proposal.
Speaking to TNM, Seema Garg, CEO of KLCDA said she was unaware of any such proposal.
“We have not received any such official communication, so to comment anything on it would not be fair," she told TNM.
The KLCDA rules that came into existence from March 2016 talks about “restoring quality and importance of the lakes to their pristine status as reflected in the pages of history of the State.”
Bengaluru currently has only 81 lakes, including those filled with sewage or partly encroached. The district had 261 lakes in 1961. The state authorities are equally guilty of encroaching upon water bodies as private developers.
The proposal has naturally elicited a negative response from environmentalists and scientists alike.
Speaking to TNM, Ramprasad, convenor of Friends of Lake— an NGO involved with rejuvenating lakes in the city, said, “Going by this logic, the government should give up roads which have potholes or government hospitals should give up on patients with ailments and only focus on healthy people.”
Terming the proposal to be “utter foolish” and “criminal towards the future generation”, he said, “This calls for a mass movement on the scale as displayed during the protests against the proposed steel flyover.”
However, he noted, “It is sensible to drop some water bodies for rejuvenation purpose, instead they can be converted into mini forests.”
He added, “The same politicians have encroached upon lakes in the 70s in the garb of making the city malaria-free. Now these areas have severe groundwater shortage. If tomorrow, Bangalore faces an even more severe water crisis, we will realise that the 50% of our groundwater reserves are already depleted as a result of the disappearing lakes.”
Veena Srinivasan, a Hydrologist working with Centre for Environment and Development, ATREE reacting to the decision, said, "It sounds like complete insanity. If the lakes are in the process of dying, they are saying ‘let's kill them in entirety’. If they are dry, you have to recognise it as a sign of groundwater exploitation. And try to fix it, so eventually when the groundwater recovery is complete, our lakes will be some kind of healthy."