Lake Encroachment
The Karnataka High Court Chief Justice has given the government one month’s time to submit the comprehensive lake restoration report.
Representational image

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday directed the state government and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to come up with a compendious plan to restore 19 lakes in Bengaluru city, which have been completely encroached upon.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay Shreenivas Oka instructed the state government and BBMP that if the encroachments cannot be cleared, then 19 artificial lakes must be created to compensate for the loss.

The Chief Justice has given the government one month’s time to submit the comprehensive lake restoration report.

“The state government and the BBMP will have to take measures to restore the disappeared lakes. If it is not possible to restore these lakes, then the state should discharge its constitutional obligation by creating artificial lakes to compensate for the damage caused to the environment,” Justice Oka noted.

The bench also reprimanded the state government for allowing lakes to be used for construction by the BBMP.

“BBMP and the state government have not come out with any solution. Disappearance of lakes ought to have been taken seriously,” the bench observed.

In June this year too, the High Court had stated that the state government had failed to protect the lakes of Bengaluru. “Allowing disappearance of lakes is in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It is the primary responsibility of the state to maintain lakes. The state cannot shirk its responsibility by saying maintenance is entrusted with BBMP,” the court had noted.

The court also warned the BBMP that the authorities would be held in contempt if grievance redressal system is not set up by BBMP at the earliest, so that people can complain about illegal encroachments.

According to data provided by the BBMP, of the 168 lakes in the city, 75 have been rejuvenated and 19 more are currently being rejuvenated. The BBMP says that the detailed project report for these 19 lakes has also been prepared.

“Lakes that lost their character were converted to B kharab land and constructions have come up there including the Kempegowda Bus Stand and the Kanteerava Stadium. The court has directed us to stop constructions on Subramanyapura Lake,” a senior BBMP official told TNM.

B kharab land refers to government land used for construction of public utilities like roads, footpaths, cemeteries, etc. Once it's converted to b kharab, and a road is built across the lake, the properties on either side can be sold for construction.

The Subramanyapura Lake has become a spot for garbage and debris dumping. By 2013, the 18.2 acre lake was reduced to 11.3 acres. With time, the lake began shrinking even more and the BBMP has not taken any measure to clear the illegal dumping.

Chief Justice Oka had in June directed the state government to enlist the help of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to inspect the lakes in the city and come up with a comprehensive rejuvenation plan.

On Wednesday, the court directed the state government to release the amount required for the study in two weeks. This was after the state government informed the court that NEERI’s proposal for lake rejuvenation was accepted.

Speaking to TNM, director of NEERI, Dr Rakesh Kumar says that the institute has formed a team of researchers, who conducted preliminary checks on the city’s lakes and has come up with a three-step plan for rejuvenating the lakes.

“First, we will inspect the lakes, which the BBMP says they have rejuvenated already and submit a status report. Second, we will look into the lakes, which the BBMP says are in the process of being rejuvenated. They say the DPR (detailed project report) is ready and tenders have to be called for. Thirdly, we will look at the lakes that have been destroyed completely and come up with a plan to rejuvenate them. We will be done with the preliminary phase in three months,” Dr Rakesh said.