Thursday, August 16, 2007

Green protest sinks floating restaurant

Green protest sinks floating restaurant
Ashwini Y S | TNN

Bangalore: The green brigade can celebrate. The proposed floating restaurant on Hebbal Lake has been shelved. The East India Hotels Ltd (EIH), parent company of the Oberoi Group, submitted a letter to the Lake Development Authority (LDA) stating its withdrawal from the project.
In its August 10 letter, EIH said that “after an in-house review, the group has decided to drop the project.’’ It also says other activities under the detailed project report (DPR) will be carried out as per the agreement.
Hebbal Lake, one of the largest man-made lakes in Bangalore, was built in the 16th century to meet the area’s water requirement. Once a thriving water body, it’s now heavily polluted with truckloads of plastic, weeds and silt.
To revive the lake, the authorities initiated measures, including the unsuccessful Indo-Norwegian Environment Programme (INEP). With no sewage treatment plant or silt traps, the lake was subjected to further pollution and encroachment.
In 2006, the LDA floated the restoration and maintenance concept under the PPP module, where it called for tenders from private stakeholders. The EIH Ltd. bid won and in March 2006, the lake was leased out to it for upkeep.
Director, corporate communications, EIH Ltd Ketki Narain told The Times of India that LDA approved the DPR which included a floating restaurant, a cafeteria, etc. on the lake. The 15-year contract allows for a ten-year extension. Here, EIH Ltd has to pay LDA Rs 75 lakh per annum, with an annual escalation of 1.5% of this sum, to use the lake.
“The idea was that adequate income would be generated by those who got the lease for the lake’s upkeep. However, the group has now decided that we are not going ahead with the project. We took up the lake to restore it. It is a social project for us,’’ added Ketki.
Asked for the reason for the change in plans, she said the project had attracted way too much attention and criticism by environmentalists and conservationists in the city.
The lake is a major attraction for the bird population, and naturalists were worried about this, apart from the state of the lake itself.
The group will now ensure that the lake would be restored, and maintained as long as it was with them.
EIH is setting up a sewage treatment plant at a cost of Rs 2 crore. This will have silt traps and screen barriers which will treat the sewage before the water is let into the lake. The group also plans a separate pond area for idol immersion.


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