Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Vanishing lakes: Time to act now

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Civic 360°: Parks and Lakes
Vanishing lakes: Time to act now
Subhash Chandra NS

The widespread outcry about Bangalore’s vanishing lakes is finally waking up the City’s civic agencies. Plans are afoot to conserve the existing water bodies and even revive some of the old ones. The agencies better speed up, because at stake is Bangalore’s very existence as a liveable City.

Here are some startling findings that should explain the need for urgency: The 262 wetlands that existed in Bangalore in 1962 had declined by a whopping 58 per cent by 2007, according to a study by the Energy and Wetland research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science. While the City’s built up area shot up by 466 percent between 1973- 2007, the 51 active wetlands in 1973 dipped to 17 by 2007. During the same period, the number of lakes in Greater Bangalore came down from 159 to only 93.

The study found that the condition of Northern part of greater Bangalore was poorer than the Southern region, where the City is growing faster. Strangely, the BBMP claims there are still 212 lakes in the City.

To protect the existing water bodies from pollution and encroachment, the Lok Adalat had issued directions recently. Following this, the BBMP has now launched a Rs. 900 crore conservation project.

It has been a losing battle for lake conservationists. Public Interest Litigations, Court directions, educational programmes and government stringent norms of the State Government and appeal from Scientific Community and environmentalists have repeatedly failed to arrest the disappearance of the water bodies.

Mass migrations into Bangalore has doubled the City’s population in a few years. “Greenery is disappearing, ground water mining is draining some lakes, while the scourge of unaccounted sewage and indiscriminate use of agro chemicals and pesticides along the wetlands has gripped many,” explains Dr Nandini, Professor, Department of Environment Sciences (DES), Bangalore University.

Ishwar Prasad, Parisara, an environmentalist involved in greening Thippagondanahalli reservoir catchment area agrees: “Some lakes have disappeared due to development works. Even the crores of rupees borrowed from international agencies to clean the lakes have not been fruitful,” he says.

Forty-two lakes lost to development:

Of the 212 lakes, which the Palike claims the City has, 42 were reportedly lost due to development work. They were converted to residential layouts, playgrounds, stadiums, industries, government buildings and bus stands. Scores of private projects, apartments, indepedent houses and commercial complexes now stand on erstwhile lakes.

According to the Palike, the lakes on which the City was dependent on water until the 1970s were neglected following the Cauvery water supply scheme to pump water from a distance of 100 kms away from the City. “This was the genesis of lake destruction as the utility of the lakes was not found for the purpose for which it was initially used as. The lake surroundings were covered by urban set up and irrigation requirement totally diminished,” says the BBMP report.

Indiscriminate sewerage disposal:

Indiscriminate disposal of sewerage into the lakes are cited by both the IISc and BBMP reports, and another study by the Bangalore University. The IISc report finds that of the 360 recognised slums in the City, only 30 percent have underground sewerage system. “In majority of the slums, waste water is discharged through storm water drains,” the reports say. The BU study observes that even waste water from the apartments end up in the lakes.

“With the availability of piped water supply, the importance of surfaced water in lakes lost focus. The lack of adequate underground water drainage system to intercept and divert the used water for its treatment before discharge to valleys, has not kept pace with water use and draining by urban population,” the BBMP report reveals.
Indiscriminate drilling of borewells is another cause cited for the disappearing lakes. With over 1,25,000 borewells in the City, the water level has plunged below 400 feet. The Bangalore North Taluk was declared grey way back in 1994 by the Central Ground Water Board.

With no proper demarcations, the water bodies have been easy targets for land sharks. But now, with the City’s population requiring over 800 million litres of water per day, the BBMP has no option but to revive and rejenuvate the lakes.

Forty-three lakes have lost their entire character either due to government
projects or to private.

Prominent among them:

* Dharmambudi lake: Converted into the Kempegowda Bus terminus.
* Sampige lake: Land used for the Kanteerava stadium
* Koramangala lake: Land used for the National Dairy Research Institute
* Akkithimannahalli lake: Converted into a Hockey Stadium.
* Sunkal Lake: The land now houses the KSRTC regional Workshops
* Hennur lake: Converted into HBR layout.
* Vijinipura lake: Now converted as the Rajarajeshwari layiut.
* Vijayanagar Chord Road lake: Converted to Vijaynagar lake
* Jakarayana Kere: Krishna Floor mills
* Tumkur Lake: Land used for Mysore Lamps.

BBMP’s initiative to rejuvenate a total of 144 lakes is already in the pipeline.

The significant large lakes include:

* Bellandur lake spread across 364 hectare area (ha).
* Yelahanka Lake, area: 121.68 ha
* Kalkere lake, area: 75.68 ha
* Doddanekkundi lake, area: 45.29 ha.
* Hulimavu Kere: area: 44.26 ha

The five smaller lakes under the project with less than 1 hectare area include:

* Devarakere: 0.28 ha
* Kariyobbanahalli kere (Yeshwanthpur), 0.31 ha
* Golaratti lake (BEL layout): 0.31 ha
* Halagadevarahalli kere(Govindrajnagar): 0.44 ha
* Srigandadakaval lake (Rajiv Gandhi Nagar): 0.45

Interview(Bharatlal Meena Commissioner, BBMP )

To rejuvenate the dying lakes of the city, what role is the BBMP playing?

Currently, we are doing a brisk revenue survey of the lakes and taking precautions to clear encroachments and fence them for protection. The survey should be completed in the next two to three months. In fact, as and when the lakes are identified, the reports are being sent to us by the department. We will then be cleaning and desilting the lakes that are perishing.

BBMP’s efforts alone may not suffice to help these water bodies. Is the Palike in touch with other civic agencies?

We already have the co-ordinating agency under former chief secretary to the Chief Minister, A Ravindra’s chairmanship to facilitate all the agencies in helping the dying water bodies. We have also enlisted the help of forest department officials in replenishing and preserving the lakes.

The Palike’s lake report seems to show that most lakes being surveyed are around the Bangalore city. What about those which are in the centre of the city and those that have dried up?

Yes, we are mostly looking at lakes around the City. But, those which are identified and within the City have also been noted. We intend to replenish those lakes by providing water and rejuvenate those areas.

But most inlets have been encroached upon by private residents. How do you intend to clear those structures that have already been constructed?

We will try to identify those lake areas that have been encroached upon and clear them. We will also be trying to treat water that is being discharged by houses in the vicinity and push it to the lakes.

That would mean setting up treatment plants near the catchment areas of the lake?

Yes, they will be small structures dependent on the size of the lakes. It won’t be hard to identify them and set them up at the catchment areas.

Sandeep Moudgal

Storm water drain encroachments: A major lake-killer

Bangaloreans were once caught in the mystery over the drying up of lakes while rains flooded the low-lying areas. But now it is clear that both the issues have their origin in the encroachment of lakes, their catchment areas and storm water drains, as a study by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) reveal.

Encroachment of lakes has become a common thing, but the land sharks have not even spared the storm water drains and catchment areas. Over 50 percent of lakes are drying up due to this and is resulting in urban floodings, according to the study conducted by the Energy and Wetland Studies Research Centre, Centre for Ecological Sciences,IISc.
The study which analysed various lake beds have found that the natural drainage channels and the catchment areas have been encroached by land mafia in connivance with Government machinery.

“The downstream of Nagavara has been encroached. Even the drain connecting the Sankey lake is encroached, A major portion of the Begur lake catchment area has disappeared. It is not one story, but all the City wetlands are facing similar problem,” says Dr T V Ramchandra, Senior Scientist, Energy and Wetland Research Group, CES, IISc.

Pointing out that the water storage capacity of the lakes has decreased in recent years, the study says that even a slight rainfall now leads to water logging due to the encroachment of drains.

The report says that the changes related to flooding has become a routine after 2000. Even a 30 mm rainfall for half an hour will lead to water logging. The connectivity between Yelchenhalli Kere and Madivala, and between Madivala and Bellandur has been lost due to the encroachment.

In the Bellandur- Ulsoor Catchment area, with six lakes of Sankey, Ulsoor, Chalghatta, Chinanagara and Varthur, out of the total 240 Million cubic meter of rainfall yield, only 90 million cubic meter is percolated and 150 million cubic meter overflows, depriving the lake of most of the water. A major portion of the water cannot flow downstream due to disruption of natural drainage.

The story is not much different in Madivala- Varthur Catchment area with 14 lakes. Now, BBMP is trying to redesign the SWDs at a cost of Rs 950 crore for the core city and a whopping 6,600 crore to build new SWDs in the newly added seven City Municipality Council regions.


Glory that was Bangalore

The lakes in the three valleys of Hebbal, Vrushbavathi and Koramangala Chellaghatta valley in the City had earned Bangalore the tag of ‘ The City of Lakes.’ Most of these valleys were built in the 16th century AD by damming natural valley systems and created in such a manner that each of them would harvest rainwater from its catchment area and the surplus water over flows into the next lake in the downstream.
They form a hydrological chain. The monsoon runoff flow of water runs from North to South East as well as to the South West along natural gradient of the land.Most of these lakes were used for drinking water, irrigation and fishing and they have also influenced the micro climate and have rejuvenated the ground water since ages.

BBMP plans

The BBMP plans to prevent further encroachment, enhance water quality to check ground water contamination, restore ecological system, recharge ground water, create an urban asset, restore flora/ fauna habitat and provide lung space and provide recreational facilities.

The three-phased programme focusses on demarcation of boundaries, fencing, sewerage diversion to arrest inflow into the lake in the first phase.


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