Saturday, February 19, 2005

Arkavathy spells doom for Jakkur Lake

Arkavathy may spell doom for Jakkur Lake

Environmentalists say construction too close to the lake will definitely affect both the lake and the Arkavathy Valley.

Deccan Herald

Will the scenic Jakkur Lake survive the influx of Arkavathy Layout? This is the foremost question environmentalists and officials of the Lake Development Authority (LDA) face. The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), which took so much pride in developing several lakes in the city, has now started forming sites in the catchment area of the lake, the largest tank of which spans 76.14 acres.

In its desperate effort to develop the Arkavathy Layout around the Jakkur-Dasarahalli area, for which the BDA faced immense shortage of land though it has 2.5 lakh applicants for 20,000 sites, the BDA is now levelling land on the edge of Jakkur Lake.

LDA Deputy Conservator of Forests Vanashree Vipin Singh said, “The LDA has authority over water bodies, not over catchment areas for each lake, though this is vital. So we are helpless — though we realise construction very close to the lake will definitely affect the lake and the Arkavathy Valley.” At one time, the BDA had even notified conversion of four lakes — Jakkur, Nagawara, Rachenahalli and Dasarahalli — into the layout. The proposal, however, was quickly shot down by LDA several months ago. However, that hasn’t stopped sites over catchment areas. The LDA had once received a complaint about Jakkur Lake being reclaimed. But a field inspection revealed that though the water body was untouched, layout formation was taking place too close to it.

BDA Commissioner M N Vidyashankar, when contacted, said an 18-metre radius of land all around Jakkur Lake has been left undisturbed for drainage. “Adequate drainage area is being allowed around all lakes to carry water from the catchment areas to the lakes without interruption. The drainage areas are, in fact, being strengthened with gradients and desilting,” Mr Vidyashankar said.

However, Ms Vanashree Singh said, “The LDA recently sought authority over command areas, catchment areas and green-land around lakes that should ideally not be disturbed if the lakes are to survive. Further, borewells around the lake must be restricted. A land-use policy with all these norms was sent to the government but we’ve not got any response yet. If tall buildings (apartments) are built around the lake, it will not only pollute the lake but also cut off sunlight.” A request for a survey of the lakes by land survey officials is pending with the revenue department too.

Threat to other lakes
The greens are up in arms against allowing construction so close to lakes. Asphalting won’t allow recharging of ground water and, as several lakes in Bangalore are interconnected, each lake’s destruction could lead to the end of others. It may also result in water-logging in residential areas when it rains. This, they observe, is frequently seen in places like Madiwala. “The command area of one lake is usually the catchment area for another lake,” an environmentalist said.

Environmentalist and researcher at IIM-Bangalore Dr Somashekar Reddy notes, “There will definitely be sewage getting into the tank if there is habitation so close to the lake. Any construction should be at least 200 metres away. A 15-foot-deep sewage sump close to the lake will affect ground water and the aquifer (a water-bearing stratum of earth). Further, people will probably throw garbage either into the lake itself or on vacant land around. In rain, garbage would be carried into the lake. Besides, unless storm run-offs in catchment areas are diverted into lakes, how will the lakes get water?”

Mr Vidyashankar, however, said the BDA has plans to rejuvenate all four lakes and develop amusement parks with water sports in which locals could participate. “As for keeping the lakes unpolluted, once the locals participate in sports and boating in their neighbourhood lakes, they’ll also see to it that they are kept clean,” Mr Vidyashankar said.

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