Activists from several citizen lake groups in Bengaluru — including Friends of Lakes, Whitefield Rising, Sarakki Lake Guardians and Bellandur Lake Citizens Group — came together on Tuesday to form the ‘Federation of Bangalore Lakes’. They aim to find a solution for better lake governance after the Karnataka government decided to scrap the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA).
At the moment, the Federation is an informal citizen’s group that plans to raise funds to fight cases.
The government had earlier ordered the establishment of two bodies for the protection and rejuvenation of lakes across the state: the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLDCA) for urban areas and the Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority (KTDCA) for rural areas. However, it eventually decided to withdraw the KLCDA and grant full responsibility to the KTDCA.
The move has been heavily criticised by lake activists since it reportedly exposes urban lakes to the threat of encroachment. The federation added that the KTDCA’s current focus on lake conservation and rejuvenation was inadequate and that a proper water recycling and reuse plan was integral in the long run.
The federation found issue with the KTDCA’s provision to allow roads and bridges to be built if the original capacity of the lake is not reduced. They alleged that this was a serious loophole since lake capacity tends to naturally decrease due to siltation and that anybody could encroach upon a lake simply by desilting it. They criticised the KTDCA’s right to exercise executive functions when it is only meant to be a regulatory body.
Additionally, unlike the KLDCA, which was headed by a CEO and was, therefore, more accessible, the KTDCA is headed directly by the Chief Minister and thus cannot be approached regularly, they said.
“This amendment was cleverly drafted and placed before the Assembly. It hardly took a few minutes to get cleared, when it should have been discussed for much longer,” said Prof KS Bhatt from Sarakki Lake Guardians.
Among the Federation’s key requirements is the stoppage of road and bridge construction in the areas surrounding the lakes, the expansion of the buffer zones from 30 metres to 75 metres, and that the regulatory body stays as such, without adopting an executory role.
“We will start agitating that these are not lake-friendly. If the KLDCA can be revived, then it’s fine. If amendments to the KTDCA can be made, that works as well. Our end goal is that the lakes should be safeguarded,” activist Sandeep Anirudhan told TNM.
“Right now, we’ll ask for all these regressive clauses to change. Then we’ll decide what our next step is. Personally, I feel that this is the first step in a much larger journey. From a federation of lakes it may evolve into a federation for water security, which will be a greater stakeholder that asks the government to change laws so that water security is established locally,” he added.