Sunday, August 19, 2007

Greens resent privatisation of lake management

Greens resent privatisation of lake management

Staff Reporter

‘Why are private groups involved when there is no dearth of funds?’

‘LDA floated tenders for private management’

‘Supreme Court judgments have pointed out

that the scheme is illegal’

BANGALORE: The 150-acre water body at Hebbal continues to be the churning point of discontent against the State Government’s policy of privatisation of common property resources.

Even the offer by East India Hotels, parent company of the Oberoi that was awarded the lease to manage Hebbal lake, to modify its project proposal to supposedly address ecological concerns has not cut ice with a section of environmentalists. The latter wants nothing less than a complete overhaul of the public-private partnership.

The Lake Development Authority (LDA), with its jurisdiction covering all the city’s lakes, introduced a scheme in 2004 — Expression of Interest — wherein private parties could bid for water bodies and “develop and maintain” them for the next 15 years. Nagawara lake has been handed over to Lumbini Gardens. Hebbal and Agaram lakes have been leased out to private companies and more than 50 lakes are all designated to be privatised. Private management includes setting up commercial enterprises in and around the lake and charging an entry fee to the lake.

“We must first question whether it is acceptable to privatise public spaces. If that is wrong, then the agency to be targeted is the LDA. The Oberois have taken up the proposal because such a scheme exists,” Rohan D’Souza of Hasiru Usiru, an environment group, told The Hindu. The most important question the LDA must answer is why lakes are being handed over to private groups when there is no dearth of money for the management of these water bodies.

Leo Saldanha of Environment Support Group agrees. Since LDA is the agency that floated tenders for private management of lakes and approved the projects submitted by companies, this department must justify why commercialisation of water bodies is being allowed.

“It must also answer why this scheme was pushed forward when Supreme Court judgments pointing out to its illegality was brought to the notice of the LDA,” he said. A 2006 judgment states that tanks are common property and should be maintained in a manner that does not exclude traditional users of the lake.

Mr. Saldanha questioned why the over Rs. 2 crore Indo-Norwegian Environment Programme (INEP) was dismissed in the detailed project report (DPR) as a failure.

“The DPR does not bother to give reasons why it has been considered so. Elsewhere in the project, it says that the water-holding capacity of the tank will increase from 849 million litres to 1,300 million litres after removal of silt. How did they arrive at the numbers?” he asked.

“Hebbal lake is one of the important wetland habitats in the city. The project aims to turn it into what resembles a theme park. How did the LDA approve this?” he asked.


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