In a purported violation of guidelines laid down by the National Green Tribunal, yet another lake in greater Bengaluru is being encroached upon by authorities themselves.
The National Green Tribunal mandates that no construction can happen within 75-metres of a lake, but civic authorities are laying a 30-feet road right at the edge of Sompura Lake, Sarjapur residents allege.
The lake is part of the Vrishabhavathi series, and is part of the connected lake and tank system of Bengaluru.
Local activists, who had earlier raised alarm bells when the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) began dumping waste in the lake, said the road is laid to connect an illegally constructed building on the lake buffer zone with Sarjapur Main Road. And worse, the panchayat members, in collusion with the private developer, threatened a section of the Sarjapur Resident Welfare Association (SRWA) which had taken up the rejuvenation works of 25-plus lakes in the area.
This also resulted in a fallout in the SRWA, which changed its aggressive stance of rejuvenating lakes and translocating trees to â€śwork with the governmentâ€ť. A message has been sent to the members, saying that saving lakes or trees were the least of their priorities.
â€śWe would like to work with the government authorities and not work against them,â€ť the message said.
Despite this, a section of activists running the Save Sompura Lake campaign submitted a complaint to the Panchayat Development Officer of about two instances of lakebed encroachment, including the one in Sompura. They also pointed out how a church was being built on the lakebed.
In their complaint, they also invoked the NGT orders and similar Karnataka HC orders.
â€śInstead of listening to us, the officials drove us out of the office without inspecting the lake, which is right outside their office,â€ť an activist said.
â€śThe road that exists is just two-three feet wide for a single person, made of mud to cross to the other side of the lake. Now a 30-foot road is being built to favour the private developer. The building which is being constructed itself is also illegal as it is made on the lake buffer land. This will lead to other similar buildings to come up illegally on the buffer zone or the lakebed itself. Now this is happening with the support of the panchayat and it is very difficult for a commoner to contest them. The officials are using the MI (Minor Irrigation) Act to defend themselves, which is yet to get the Governorâ€™s assent. I do not want to defame anyone, but I do not know why those tree lovers and lake lovers are keeping quiet,â€ť Madhuri, co-founder of Friends of Lake, an NGO working for rejuvenation of lakes, said.
â€śSome days back, I was told over the phone that I am being fed wrong information. But they canâ€™t fool us. I went to the lake myself and I know that a week ago there were no roads,â€ť she added.
She also alleged that illegal sand mining and garbage dumping is being carried out with the support of the panchayat.
â€śSuddenly there were burning garbage on the lake and a whole layer of the lakebed has been taken away. The top layer is gone. So if it rains now, all the water will now seep into the earth and the lake will be dry,â€ť she added.
Madhuri pointed out that the Sompura Lake is not the only one where roads were coming up. The story is same in Singapura and Pattandur Agrahara where authorities are building roads.
â€śThey must realise that they are being watched. They did away with the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority, like they did with the state's Lokayukta institution, as it was actually doing what it was meant to do,â€ť Madhuri said.
Defending the move, Dinesh, Anekal Tahsildar said, "This is not a road, but a walking path. This will actually help protect the lake. That is why the zilla panchayat is building it. This is there in the Ulsoor Lake too."