Friday, July 21, 2006

Obituary of a lake nobody knew about

Obituary of a lake nobody knew about
The Times of India

Bangalore: An eco-utopia like this did exist in the heart of Bangalore. At Palace Grounds, bang opposite Cauvery theatre. With a pristine unpolluted lake, chirping birds, 6,437 varieties of trees, a wooded forest with a wetland.

Only to be ravaged with over 1 lakh tonnes of construction sand, where half the lake has metamorphosed into a 20-foot high hillock, where trees like sandalwood, raintree, tamarind have been reduced to rubble upon which one can stand and view the remaining half of the lake.

Wooded away from the busy Bellary Road for the past five months, some persons whose identities are yet to be established, have been filling up the lake and decimating the forest to such an extent that six acres have been turned into an artificial hillock.

On Thursday, the forest department unearthed the scam and apprehended two persons who were caught unloading a truck of rubble onto the lake. Explains deputy conservator of forests (urban) A M Annaiah: “Nobody even knew that a lake like this existed at Palace Grounds. While driving on Bellary Road we accidentally saw a huge mound. Out of curiosity we just walked in to discover to our shock that the wetland had been covered to such an extent. The natural course of the water has been damaged irreversibly, the surrounding areas are bound to have floods. Where will the water flow now?’’

The two persons caught in the act have been identified only as V V Kumar, resident of Ganganagar, and Suresh. Upon interrogation, they said they were doing this at the behest of a certain Babu, whose whereabouts have not yet been traced. They have been retained at the forest department for 24 hours for further questioning and will later be remanded to judicial custody.

Annaiah explains that it is difficult taking any decision on the case because all of Palace Grounds is mired in litigation. The sprawling stretch of land actually belongs to the royal family of Mysore, divided between Srikanta Datta Wadiyar and his sisters. Many years ago the government tried acquiring the land but with Wadiyar challenging the acquisition, the entire area has a Supreme Court stay on it.

The SC has ruled: “The nature of the land has to be maintained. Keep the status quo.’’

For a perspective on the extent to which the area has been destroyed, get this: a horse which must have strayed from the adjoining Princess Academy and died, has been buried on the mound itself. With just a thin film of earth covering it.

Forest department officials also say, “The persons we have detained have revealed that some companies have asked them to dispose of waste material here because there was no other place to dispose this. ‘’ They reckon that the activity must have been rampant for at least five months now.

For the record, any activity on this stretch at Palace Grounds requires permission from the central government’s ministry of environment because the area is a reserve.

As for this irreversible damage, the department says that they would invoke the provisions of Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act and Karnataka Forest Land Act to file their chargesheets.


At Saturday, August 12, 2006 at 1:46:00 AM GMT+5:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Author is obviously a green horn and did not follow the maxim audi alteram partem meaning the principle that no one should be condemned without a hearing in which they are given the opportunity to respond to the accusations against them. It is considered a principle of fundamental justice or fairness that the accused should be afforded the right to defend before determining the guilt or culpability!

The truth of the matter is there was no lake before 1991 and neither is the ANCIENT Lake being filled up with muck as claimed. Kempegowda Tower near Mekhri Circle is the highest point in Bangalore (you can see the earliest benchmarks behind the tower). Raja Mahal Guttahally Circle corner of Bangalore Palace Ground is its lowest part. So when it rains a huge cascade of water undulates and fins its way to the SW part of the Palace compound. Over the years this has resulted in a large valley being formed. In the olden days all this water used to find an easy way out thro' Sewage line just outside the compound. But over the years as the quantum of sewage increased the filthy water started flowing in reverse in to the Palace Compound and also spoiling the coconut grove because of excessive moisture.

Palace dairy in the olden days was situated near the gate located near the Cauvery theatre. To connect the main Palace to this part an embankment was constructed cutting across the valley many decades ago, but with a small bridge at the center point to allow free flow of rainwater.

Little distance away from the dairy is an ancient Hanuman Temple constructed by Maharani Vani Vilas Sannidhana. It has a small pond in front of it.

So the scenario in 1991 was the pond was totally dry and the coconut grove was slowly decaying due stagnation of water.

At that point of time Mr. Srikanata Wadiyar had just got a major part of the vacant land back in his possession after a protracted battle with the scheming Chamaraju Group who were in possession of the entire Bangalore Palace Grounds from 1971 thro' dubious means by cheating The late Maharaja Jaya Chama raja Wadiyar. It may be back handed compliment but yet true, if Bangalore Palace grounds has remained an Open space then one should thank the Srikanata wadiyar and his Sisters for waging a legal battle against Chamaraju group and as a result against their own dear father to save this invaluable family asset.

After wresting the control of the part of the Palace as quoted above the property was being managed by one of his brother in law- an Engineer, who closed the Bridge over the embankment and started conserving the rainwater. Within an year this started bearing results and the old pond was back to its glory and the alleged ANCIENT Lake slowly started attaining its pristine sweep and thus attracting the chirping birds and the mini forest.

There has been no attempt to fill this lake. But what lies on the western side of the lake/ Embankment is just a valley. If it was lake then the allegation that sandalwood tree etc being dwarfed by the mountain of sand cannot be true either as these trees cannot survive under water ! Any way sandalwood tree is a parasite tree and nut a plantation tree. If thieves can cut and take away the bottom part of the Trunk from the Police Commissioners Office itself, then how can you blame if it is destroyed inside the vast Bangalore Palace Compound?

The truth of the matter is that when Palace Cross Road and Mekhri Circle underpass was constructed in the 2000-01 by BMP and its contractor Shamaraju Group dumped all the excavated sand and stone in this corner of the valley and over the past few years this had rendered the palace in to a dangerous slush and wild growth. It was absolutely necessary to fill up this place with additional sand and level it to beautify the place. Probably some over jealous sand dumpers who generally operate in night might have unloaded in a bit ungainly manner without timely leveling operation giving an impression that some ting sinister is being done. Probably Mr. Wadiyar never visited this wild corner for a while and saw the unintended distraught coming his way because of his staff’s negligence. This frivolous mountain of sand made a mole descend on him by a cranky Forest officer and a green horn journo ! But then if you go around Sankey tank where a lot taxpayers money is being sunk due the autocratic Justice Venkatachala the scene is not largely different. If you want to create some thing beautiful, you may have to do a bit of landscaping, filling etc. In the interregnum you cannot attribute culpability to the action and say the lake is being vandalized!


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