Officials hope this will stop ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ encroachment of lakes
After years of judicial pressure, the process to keep the city’s lakes from the hands of local encroachers and misuse has finally started. The Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) has sought for the declaration of 176 ‘live’ lakes in the city as ‘wetlands’.
Once notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) as wetlands, any changes in the land use of these lakes — such as diversion of lake land for roads or layouts or any other purpose — can only be done by through the approval of the Union government. Officials and activists hope that the added protection on land will stop the continued ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ encroachment of lakes.
The lakes suggested covers most of the city’s contentious, often polluted lakes, including Bellandur, Yele Mallappa Shetty, Hebbal, Varthur, Hulimavu, and Kaidondrahalli, among others. The criteria for the declaration as per a Supreme Court order in February 2017 was that the lake should be above 2.25 hectares (or, above 5.5 acres) — or, in short, every visible lake body in the city. These 176 lakes cover an area of over 9,000 acres, which will be protected under the Wetlands Rules, 2010.
KLCDA had sought for the opinions of the custodians of lakes —Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Forest Department — on the proposal, and with no objections received, the KLCDA in a letter dated March 31 had recommended the declaration of the lakes as Wetlands.
The letter comes in the backdrop of a writ petition filed at the Supreme Court on the status of the country’s wetlands. “A suitable prayer can be made before the Honorable Supreme Court of India that the State of Karnataka needs nine months to prepare the ‘Brief Document’ on each wetland and submit it to the Government of India for further action,” states the letter, signed by KLCDA CEO G. Vidyasagar, addressed to the Additional Chief Secretary (Forests, Ecology and Environment).
“We are also looking to declare 92 lakes in 10 urban municipal corporations across the State. We have asked the authorities to verify each lake, and then we can forward this to the Centre,” says Mr. Vidyasagar.
Water conservationist S. Vishwanath called it “an important” step to protect the lakes. “The Wetland Rules are very stringent, and environmental protection — whether it is removal of encroachments or stopping sewage entry — will get legal teeth through this,” he said. The only issue, he said, was commercial fishing through which many families earn their daily bread. The Wetland Rules regulates fishing, allowing it only through consent of State government.