Anyone who has lived in Bangalore for some time will fondly remember the pleasant climate, flowers blooming and the city roads covered with flowers of all hues and colours. Alas, it is no more like this today, and the city is competing with Kolkata and Chennai in summer temperatures, and vast stretches of our water-starved city are left to the mercy of water tankers. Rapid urbanisation, unplanned development and a free run to land mafia has led to massive encroachment of lake land, raja-kaluves and large-scale exploitation of underground water.
Today, 85-90% of lakes have turned dry and are sitting prey for real estate mafia and land grabbers. The massive exploitation of underground water, coupled with disappearance of lakes, has serious consequences for the city. It is visible in the rising temperatures in the city, disappearance of flora and fauna, and fast-depleting levels of underground water. Consequently, Bangalore today is sitting on a silent time bomb that, if not addressed urgently, will lead to irreversible damage to its water security and quality of life.
The result of this criminal neglect and lopsided growth is there everywhere for us to see. Arakere lake that was full of water five years back is now dry with only sewage underneath the weeds on lake bed. Hulimavu lake that just one year back was a pristine lake with crystal clear water and a serene surrounding is half dead. Bellandur lake, the biggest lake of Bangalore with about 900 acres, is under severe threat with encroachment of its buffer zone (which has been declared as environmentally sensitive zone) and raja-kaluves. Today lake activists are fighting a rear-guard battle to stop this rampant encroachment. The stories are endless and are being repeated across the city.
While government agencies are so blinded or careless for the city, citizens’ groups have been fighting for protecting lakes in their localities. Many NGOs have also been working at legal, technical level and running campaigns and seminars to bring awareness. Slowly most of them have come to realise individually that we are all doomed to fail and need to fight this battle as the challenges and problems are mostly similar for all lakes. They have all come under one banner called “ONE BENGALURU FOR LAKES (OBL)” to run a citywide campaign to focus on the key demands.
The current struggle of lake groups through lake campaigns, petitions and legal challenges will continue in parallel. The key demands by OBL from the government are :
- One agency for lake rejuvenation: All lakes should be under one government. agency which should have full responsibility for an integrated and holistic approach to development of lake eco-system and be fully empowered to discharge their duty.
- Adequate budget for lake rejuvenation: The Government should allocate adequate budget for lake rejuvenation and maintenance at a much faster rate than what is being currently provided.
- A mechanism for handling of lake-related issues: The government should set up a mechanism for people to report issue or concern that will be taken up and followed in an integrated and holistic manner, with citizens’ involvement.
- Stop dumping of debris and remove encroachments: There should be a clear and time-bound roadmap for removing encroachments from lake beds, raja-kaluves and their catchment areas. All lakes should be surveyed as soon as possible, and such maps should be made public.
- Use Storm Water Network, free of sewage, for lake interconnectivity: Sewage should be completely separated from storm water network which, together with raja-kaluves, should be used for interconnecting lakes and carry rain water to lakes.
- Include citizens in lake rejuvenation planning & execution: There should be a legal mandate to include citizens in the planning and execution of lake rejuvenation activity through public consultation and social audits. A lake should remain freely available to local communities and traditional users.
The OBL campaign will run from September 2014 to March 2015 and has three clear course of actions during this period.
- Increase awareness about lakes and get people’s support for a petition based on the above demands. The outreach campaign will explore all possible means for reaching out to people such as visiting schools, colleges, offices, localities etc. It will also partner with media for bringing articles, reports etc and for organizing debates & discussions. A good part of the campaign will also happen on social media though the network of all participating organizations.
- OBL team will also organize seminars at regular intervals on different key challenges in lake rejuvenation. The objective is to bring experts and government officials on a single platform for an open discussion on key issues. It can be followed up with more specific meetings in an attempt to identify effective solutions that are acceptable to majority of .participants.
- The OBL team will also work with various lake teams for collecting ground level data on status of lakes and related documentations like survey reports etc. As of now, we have already collected data for about 80-90 lakes. It will also work to identify connectivity of upstream and downstream for each lakes so that we can have real data on exact status of interconnectivity of lakes.
At the end of the campaign, in mid-March, there will be a mega-rally of all lake teams, supporters and concerned people to submit the petition to the Chief Minister. The OBL team aims to reach out to every Bangalorean with the message to join the movement. Anyone interested and willing to support or be part of the OBL campaign can do so by,
- Arranging OBL presentation in your office, locality, schools, colleges
- Volunteering to join outreach team.
- Joining lake team in your locality to support its rejuvenation and highlight its issues.
For the details of first seminar, click here: One Bengaluru for Lakes seminar