[Urbanstudy] KLCDA seeks declaration of 176 ‘live’ lakes in Bengaluru as wetlands

Vinay Baindur yanivbin at gmail.com
Thu Apr 20 00:48:29 CDT 2017


KLCDA seeks declaration of 176 ‘live’ lakes in Bengaluru as wetlands
<http://www.thehindu.com/profile/author/Mohit-M-Rao-379/>Mohit M Rao
BENGALURU APRIL 16, 2017 23:28 ISTA file photo of Hebbal lake in Bengaluru.

Officials hope this will stop ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ encroachment of the
waterbodies in the city

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, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike 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

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.

 Rushing against time to declare wetlands

With the next Supreme Court hearing scheduled in July, the State government
is rushing to identify wetlands — lakes, reservoirs, rivers and low-lying
areas — not just in Bengaluru, but across Karnataka too.

In its February order, the court said that the Centre and State governments
should inventorise their wetlands, else, virtually by default, all the
wetlands mapped in the National Wetlands Atlas by the Space Applications
Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation at Ahmedabad would be declared
wetlands. The fear was that if State governments were given time, more
wetlands would disappear.

The atlas lists more than 2.1 lakh wetlands across the country. Karnataka
itself has nearly 6.21 lakh hectares (or, 6,214 sq. km) of wetland areas
identified — spanning rivers, reservoirs, ponds and lakes, water-logging
areas among others.

“We have directed all departments, which are custodians of wetlands, to
provide a list of areas that should be added or removed from this list. In
many areas, there may not be water or has ceased to be wetlands. Though
there are thousands of wetlands to be verified, we do not have much time.
Departments have started sending it to us,” said Ravi Kumar P., Additional
Chief Secretary (Forest, Ecology and Environment).

The cumulated list, including Bengaluru’s lakes, will be sent to the
Ministry of Environment and Forests, he said.
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