The Chief Executive Officer of the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority on Monday clarified that no foreign firm has been hired to rejuvenate two of Bengaluru’s frothing lakes.
Speaking to The News Minute, CEO of the KLCDA, G Vidyasagar said that the Bellandur lake will be restored in accordance with the Expert Committee suggestions that were notified by the government in October, 2016.
"We will go with my Expert Committee report which is accepted and notified by the government," Vidyasagar told TNM on Monday on the issue of rejuvenating Bellandur Lake.
“The expert committee did not mention involving any foreign companies. This is something new (involving foreign companies), that has developed,” he added.
On Varthur Lake, Vidyasagar said that the report was yet to be made available.
According to the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority Act 2014, KLCDA is the nodal authority for National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems.
Vidyasagar’s statement comes two weeks after the Karnataka State Industries and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (KSIIDC) held talks with two foreign firms to rejuvenate two of the ailing lakes in Bengaluru.
The two companies were Bluewater Bio, a British company and Israeli firm Tahal Group and the estimated cost of the project was Rs 400 crore, according to The Times of India report on the same published on March 13.
The report quoted Industries Minister RV Deshpande as saying, “We have to cover a lot of ground before embarking on revitalizing these lakes,'' as the government was keen on "a holistic approach" to revive the water bodies and the proposal was at a preparatory stage.
“We are not going to give the technical nod to the KSIDMC proposal,” Vidyasagar said confirming that he has received official communication of the same.
Vidyasagar had told TNM that he was unaware of such a meeting between the foreign firms and other state government departments even on Friday (March 24).
A Bangalore Mirror report published on the March 23 pointed out a consultancy firm called STUP Consultants were preparing the detailed project report for the scheme.
Incidentally, STUP was also involved in preparing the DPR for the controversial steel flyover project which has been stalled by the National Green Tribunal. The project faced sustained agitation over allegations of corruption and involved felling of more than 2000 trees.
Activists and the Opposition alleged that CM Siddaramaiah and his aides received Rs 150 crore for the flyover project as kickbacks.
Environmentalists on this occasion too, feel something suspicious about the motive of inviting foreign companies.
“The DPR should have first gone to the KLCDA and nothing can be done to lakes without their knowledge. First of all, all the proposals should be in public domain, why is it being held under such secrecy?” Ramprasad, an activist and convenor of Friends of Lakes told TNM.
Ramprasad said that that they do not have problems with foreign consultants except they would charge an exorbitant fee and he doubts if the suggestions are going to be any different from what noted experts have already said.
“It does not necessarily mean that some technology which is going to come from somewhere else is superior to our indigenous knowledge and our scientists,” Ramprasad said pointing that Bengaluru's own, TB Ramachandran, has given expert advice even in foreign countries.
Ramprasad also expressed fear that these companies might commercialise the process.
“Water is commons, it cannot be sold to big companies and they cannot sell it back at a very premium price. Since water is commons, sewage is also commons,” he said citing a Supreme Court judgment which has made it clear that lakes, rivers and other water bodies cannot be privatised.
“Even sewage cannot be privatised,” he argues, saying once the contaminants are removed from sewage, it becomes water in its original form.
“The same water that is flowing to Bellandur and Varthur today overflows and reaches Hosur, from Hosur it goes to Krishnagiri and by the time the water reaches Kaveripattinam, they are drinking this water,” he explains.