Activists working to revive lakes in Bengaluru are dismayed at the misplaced priority of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) as it wants to take up landscaping and other ornamental works in the name of lake restoration.
In a newspaper ad published on Monday, the BBMP had said that they are looking for contractors for works involving landscaping and median development for Devarabisanahalli and Kaikondrahalli lakes in Bellandur ward. The total sum of money quoted for seven such projects will cost Rs 20 lakh each.
Activists point out that major death knell for the city’s lakes are the unchecked flow of untreated or undertreated sewage into the lakes. They say instead of other beautification works, BBMP can utilise this funds for more pressing needs which will ensure the lakes are full of fresh water.
A trustee at Mapsas (the Kannada acronym for Mahadevapura Environment Protection and Development Trust) which looks after these two lakes along with other water bodies of the area said this is a major wastage of public money by the BBMP.
He said both lakes have adequate trees planted in its periphery and putting exotic species in the name of horticulture will do more harm than good. He alleged when they approached the concerned lake officials they denied knowledge about this development until the tenders appeared in the newspapers.
“This means that the authorities do not want to engage their own staff, leave alone the local communities involved in the regular upkeep of the lake. We can make better use of the money for desilting, deweeding, and sewage management which needs to be done regularly and involves costs. So this amount of huge money can be spent to revive other lakes as well,” he added.
Alleging mismanagement and corruption on part of the authorities, a Bengaluru-based sustainability campaigner, Sandeep Anirudhan, alleged, “The issue points to the foundational problems of lake management due to lack of a scientific, ecological outlook and zero scope of public consultation. With the system flawed, you get such situations, where expenditure is done for the benefit of corruption and contractors, and not for the health of the lake.”
He suggested a decentralised approach to managing water bodies and usage of water, and a Water Law which looks at all sources of water holistically with a localised approach; where local bodies are in charge of all water bodies falling under them, and have financial implications too.
He said, “The subsidies given for Cauvery water should be invested instead on reviving local water sources and groundwater. Then each ward or area sabha or panchayat will be worried about the health of its lakes and groundwater, and take measures to manage them well such as planting urban forests, and local watershed management. This is how the lakes were created centuries ago and this is what will revive them now.”