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Privatisation of Lakes:

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The 'Hasiru Usiru', along with a few other organisations, is organising a human chain to "Protect Our Lakes for Posterity" on Sunday, the 22nd June, at Agara lake, Koramangala.

Even with my not being against the Hebbal lake 'maintenance arrangement'(with the Oberoi's), I have signed their online petition, because I am dead against the Nagavara and Agara deals.

Recently Environment Support Group filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court of Karnataka against the ongoing Privatisation of Lakes in Bangalore by the Karnataka Government's parastatal agency: Lake Development Authority. The PIL was admitted, emergent notices served, and in the hearing that followed, the Court sought the report of the Karnataka State Forest Department on the status of the lakes that had already been privatised, on priority.

ESG's PIL challenges the concept of leasing out of lakes to private profit making enities on various grounds, and these are listed in the Press Note enclosed below. You may also want to download the PIL which is online, and review the major issues that are highlighted and the legal basis of our challenge. In particular we are deeply concerned that the privatisation of the lakes (ostensibly to develop and maintain them) has resulted in the destruction of these waterbodies both as wetland bird habitats, as spaces where fishing communities still sustain their livelihoods and as public commons that are open to all. The debates on this issue covered in the media can be reviewed at: issue=Bangalore&catID=13

In a matter of days, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka State Forest Department, will file a report in Court on the status of the lakes that have been privatised. We believe this is an opportunity for us to ensure that the Forest Chief advances the objective of protecting lakes as wetland habitats and as public commons. Keeping this in view, an online petition is available for your endorsement at:

We request you to kindly take time to review this petition and endorse it, if you agree with the position articulated. (Please note you will have to leave your proper name and full contact details, as these endorsements will be officially submitted to the PCCF with due dispatch).

We thank you for your cooperation and support as always.

Environment Support Group

My comment:
Even with my not being against the Hebbal lake 'maintenance arrangement'(with the Oberoi's), I have signed the online petition, because I am dead against the Nagavara and Agara deals.

In August last year, in response to protests against the setting up a floating restaurant on the Hebbal lake, as a part of their development activity, the Oberoi's dropped the plan, along with agreeing to many other terms imposed by a group of environmentalists. When the info was posted on the Hasiru Usiru yahoo-group, by Mr R, I responded as below:

Hi R

You all very much deserve a pat on your backs on steering the Hebbal lake 'development' along more citizen and eco-friendly ways. And, so do Oberoi's - for responding readily and positively to public opinion.

If all that the Oberoi's are hoping to achieve is to convert an eyesore of a 'shit valley' (that most such water bodies in the city have deteriorated to under governmental 'care' even after the 'restoration') in the neighborhood of their upcoming hotel project to just a natural environment, without any commercial activity, I don't think we need have any serious issue with that. The agreement can be re-drafted along these lines, and to ensure that the terms are adhered to strictly, may be have people like Suresh Heblikar (or even you) on the monitoring panel, and even on the board of LDA.


In response to a posting in the 'savekoramangala' yahoogroup on the subject, a few days back, Mr V commented as below:

Would like to know what is the alternative offered/ reccomended to saving/ keeping our lakes safe/ accesible and clean. The government has totally failed in this, be it the BDA/ lake authorties/ forest department etc. We have lost pratcically all our lakes at the hands of its supposed saviours. Civil society once in a while creates a flutter and talks/ protests about it.

Not for a moment am I saying that the sloution is handing over all lakes to a private body just like that..but I do want to know ..

a)What is the alternative
b)Why a regulatory body staffed by environmentalists cannot oversee these private parties.
c)why this same regualtory body (not the existing government authority) cannot be the body which decides the basis/ method etc of privatisation if at all.

Being anti privatisation is fine...but so far it has meant status quo..with the same inefficent government body and a weak civil society trying to save not just lakes ,. but bangalore.

But for whatever it is worth I will be agara to generally protest!!


tsubba's picture

privatize lakes

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instead of privatizing the lakes so as to maintain it as an environmental hotspot or as a public space, how about privatizing it so as to maintain a potable water source? x mld/day at clearly stated quantitative quality level and water characteristics. they can sell water to the govt. or to construction, gardens, parks and even bottled water and beverage makers. ban all borewell digging. water table is screwed up anyway. random (time & space), in situ sampling for basic indicators - conductivity, temperature, depth. metrics which require lab time - a delayed posting. but all data in public domain and free, preferably online. (impersonal and open) plus hoards of education for general public, including how the filters work, how the measurement instruments work and how they are calibrated. i think govt should declare all lakes and tanks as strategic water sources. i think basic issue is in the difficulty in assigning a clear role for the lakes in our community. that is the big breakthrough - the great unshackling. once the role has been clearly assigned, then, how to crank the levers so that the lake performs its assigned role is a routine matter of politics and policy. :)
tsubba's picture

lakes again

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lakes by themselves donot need any maintenance - unlike labagh. at the same time they are very sensitive to abuse unlike huge systems like seas, oceans that can take a bit of beating. as long as clean water is flowing into it, the entire science and biology of these lakes is self sustaining and self regulating because these lakes have been around for a couple of centuries now, if not more and over that time, i dont think any active maintenance, especially at scales currently envisaged, was done including dredging (i maybe wrong, if anybody knows the history of dredging in our lakes please point to relevant info). for our man made lakes, this is significant point- in that, this means that these lakes are in obvious aka "natural" locations and had developed 'limbs' that helped in auto-regulating. so the lakes have become shit ponds bcoz of what is being fed to them. problem is external to lakes not internal. if the external assaults were controlled/battled, then the lake can manage itself as an eco hotspot or as a public space i.e., lakes dont need maintenance. what is needed is battling the threats at the frontiers. a template already exists in tippegondahalli. beyond holding clean waters and only to hold clean waters, it is progressing towards preservation of basin and catchment. it may not be ideal, but much better than any other lakes in the neighborhood and its bird count is not shabby either.
vmenon's picture

re lakes again

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Good point , tarlesubba..that lakes fundamnetally need no maintainence and that  role s to be found.

The other angle is that lakes need to be protected ...from the sullage that comes in and just unbounded encroachment.

The privatisation of lakes by the government authorities can also be viewed as a measure to protect lakes.The government arm has just not been able to do so ,even a very environmentally conccious lake development commisionar , say.

and lets not even talking about making the lake environs a great plave to spend a day for a common person,

But the point of lake as aresource is taken.




How can he when there is a whole bunch of "backed" people who take over lakes 

tsubba's picture

Save Agara

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also see,
tsubba's picture

Protest At Agara

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sumank @ flickr Excerpts from the Hindu's report on the protest organised by “Hasiru Usiru,” in association with several non-governmental organisations including Environment Support Group (ESG), Alternative Law Forum, Equations, CIVIC, Open Space and SICHREM. In a letter addressed to Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, the organisations called for an end to privatisation of lakes, describing it as a dangerous trend that will leave critical spaces out of reach to the public. “Such actions will directly affect the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen families who will be directly threatened by displacement,” it adds The Lake Development Authority (LDA) has handed over four lakes to private agencies, on a fifteen-year lease. Agara, Hebbal, Vengaiahnakere and Nagavara, the letter says, have been leased out “ostensibly for maintenance” even though the water bodies were restored and rehabilitated at substantial costs recently, with grants from the Indo-Norwegian Environment Programme and the National Lake Conservation Programme. Questions were also raised about the development of Hebbal Lake: “… the Karnataka State Forest Department had initiated action as per the Wildlife Protection Act against the developer, East India Hotels (Oberois), for destroying nesting grounds of birds in Hebbal tank. But for reasons best known to them, this case has not been pursued.” Leo Saldanha of ESG said that lakes were excellent habitats for a variety of flora and fauna, especially migratory waterfowl, and that privatisation would sound the death-knell for such habitats. Nearly 400 people signed up on a long scroll to show their solidarity with the cause. Actress L.V. Sharada, and former High Court Judge A.J. Sadashiva also participated. Ms. Sharada said that land grabbing and encroachments had destroyed several of the city’s lakes. She urged the Government to involve local communities in protecting the water bodies.
tsubba's picture

Forest Department's Report To The HC

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Divya Gandhi's (The Hindu) report on the status report and recomendations of the by the state forest department on the Hebbal, Nagarava and Agara lakes to the KA High Court  ...
In an assessment of the impact of privatisation on Bangalore’s lakes, the State Forest Department has described the Lake Development Authority’s (LDA) programme of leasing out lakes to private developers as one that “seems to be taking all the ills of modern, built-up and paved-over, urban life into these hitherto natural spaces”. It has recommended that the lakes be declared as “nature or bird preserves”.

‘Habitats destroyed’
Last week, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Dilip Kumar, visited four lakes — Agara, Hebbal, Nagavara and Vengaiahnakere — which have been leased out by the LDA to private companies for a period of 15 years, for their “development, beautification and maintenance”.

Lake Hebbal was leased out to East India Hotels (the parent company of the Oberoi Group of Hotels) to create a recreational centre. The PCCF’s report on it observes that “dredged material (has been) piled on the lake margin to extend the land margin, thereby damaging the shoreline vegetation which is critical wildlife habitat….”

Nagavara and Vengaiahnakere lakes, developed by Lumbini Gardens and ParC Ltd., respectively, have no habitat left for water birds, the report says.

Lake Agara, which has been leased out to Biota Natural Systems and is yet to be developed, supports a richer diversity of aquatic vegetation and birds, and also supports a community of fishermen and weed collectors, it observes.

Nature preserves
The report has recommended that the lakes that have not yet been developed “are well worth declaring as nature or bird preserves”. These bird preserves will be a tourist attraction and will serve as “a shining example of ecologically-wise integration of civic interest and biodiversity,” the report adds. As there will be no “commercial bias”, it would be possible to maintain these facilities with reasonably low entrance fees so that the lakes are accessible to everyone.

‘No food courts’
Referring to food courts, boating and other recreational facilities, the report recommends that “none of these commercial and tourism activities (should) be envisaged in the ‘development’ plans”. While “commercial activity should be avoided completely”, the department has recommended “a modest entry fee” to make up the cost of maintenance.

“No further structures, buildings and lighting need be contemplated, apart from minimal facilities at the entrance for the gate, regulatory entry and exit, watchman’s shed, plant nursery and security,” says the report.
silkboard's picture

Review of LDA itself

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LDA was created in 2002 as "a non-profit organization working solely for the regeneration and conservation of lakes in and around Bangalore city within BMRDA jurisdiction" (later, extended in 2003), as well as "the lakes in the other city municipal corp oration of the state as well as lakes in these city municipalities which are the main sources for drinking water."

Their stated mission is: "to rejenuvate, revitalilize, restore the dying lakes in the State and protect them against further pollution in order to recharge the depleting ground water and to improve surrounding environs and the local Sanitary conditions with the help of community participation".

Its been six years now, and is perhaps time to review the acheivements and operations of LDA. Its a pan state body entrusted with upkeep of lakes. So the basic structure is against the principles of decentralization. Why should it not be BBMP itself? Or why should it not be a local body like BWSSB? The only justification would be resuse of environment sciences knowledge and technology across the state. Why would that value be not brought about by the State forest department itself? Whats the real value add of LDA if it is only to hand out most of the lakes to private parties under PPP arrangements. Why should BBMP itself not directly do it - lease out the lakes to best bidders?

Is there data like this (http://www.ldakarnataka.c... - this data is 5 years old, from 2003!) that can show the changes in status of lakes over last 5 years? If the DO levels have worsened, or if the lake areas have shrunk further, there perhaps is a need to either rethink LDA, or restructure it. comment guidelines

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