Monday, June 23, 2008

Of the dangers posed by privatisation of lakes

Of the dangers posed by privatisation of lakes

Staff Reporter

‘It will affect the livelihoods of fishermen families’

‘It will sound the death-knell for bird habitats’

— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

Genuine plea: A protest was staged in Bangalore on Sunday against the move to privatise lakes.

Bangalore: Nearly 300 people from across the city turned up at Agara lake on Sunday morning to form a human chain in protest against privatisation of lakes in Bangalore.

The protest was organised by “Hasiru Usiru,” in association with several non-governmental organisations including Environment Support Group (ESG), Alternative Law Forum, Equations, CIVIC, Open Space and SICHREM.

In a letter addressed to Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyrrappa, the organisations called for an end to privatisation of lakes, describing it as a dangerous trend that will leave critical spaces out of reach to the public. “Such actions will directly affect the livelihoods of hundreds of fishermen families who will be directly threatened by displacement,” it adds

The Lake Development Authority (LDA) has handed over four lakes to private agencies, on a fifteen-year lease. Agara, Hebbal, Vengaiahnakere and Nagavara, the letter says, have been leased out “ostensibly for maintenance” even though the water bodies were restored and rehabilitated at substantial costs recently, with grants from the Indo-Norwegian Environment Programme and the National Lake Conservation Programme. Questions were also raised about the development of Hebbal Lake: “… the Karnataka State Forest Department had initiated action as per the Wildlife Protection Act against the developer, East India Hotels (Oberois), for destroying nesting grounds of birds in Hebbal tank. But for reasons best known to them, this case has not been pursued.”

Leo Saldanha of ESG said that lakes were excellent habitats for a variety of flora and fauna, especially migratory waterfowl, and that privatisation would sound the death-knell for such habitats. Nearly 400 people signed up on a long scroll to show their solidarity with the cause. Actress L.V. Sharada, and former High Court Judge A.J. Sadashiva also participated. Ms. Sharada said that land grabbing and encroachments had destroyed several of the city’s lakes. She urged the Government to involve local communities in protecting the water bodies.


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