Fill lakes with life, not debris


SHRINKING lakes in a developing city is indeed a sad story. And Bangalore probably has bettered any city on this score even as officials continue to pay lip service to saving the greenery and rejuvenating water bodies. Once vital lung spaces, these lakes are now slowly choking to death as victims of rampant encroachment, while some others have given way to places of worship, apartment complexes, golf courses and even stadiums.

At the turn of the century, there were 262 water bodies, both big lakes as well as small tanks. In 1985, when the State Government entrusted the then city administrator Lakshman Rau to do a head count of them, the number had shrunk by half. Since then many more have fallen off the map even as the city makes giant strides in the world of infotech. Rau's report was of the opinion that 132 water bodies had simply disappeared, eaten up by rapid urbanisation.

As pointed out in our story chronicling the lost lakes, these days, in the existing lakes, swimming around are not fish but land sharks waiting to sharke at the opportune time even as a complacent government watches. Each acre of lake land in Bangalore is reported to net over Rs 1 crore.

But sadly, it is the case of the fence eating the crop. There is a definite nexus between the different authorities in whose care the water bodies are, real estate mafia and revenue officials. The modus operandi is simple: As the lakes dry up in summer and a small body of water collects at the centre, the peripheries are filled with debris, mainly construction material. Slowly, a slum appears or the friendly neighbourhood travel agent parks his assortment of vehicles there. After some time, the debris would have ensured that the lake reduces in size and the land is 'sold' to builders who erect massive apartment complexes. That they actually get building plans sanctioned is a pointer towards the unholy nexus. But for a stray Public Interest Litigation fled in the High Court, the lakes are forever lost.

The list is endless. The Dharmambudhi lake in Subhashnagar has become the Kempe Gowda Bus Terminus, Shoolay tank the Bangalore Football Stadium, Akki Thimmanahalli tank bed leased to Karnataka State Hockey Association for a hockey stadium and to a private builder who has erected a massive office complex alongside, Sampangi tank turning into the Kanteerava stadium, the once-sprawling Koramangala estuary has given way to the National Games Housing Complex and the National Dairy Development Board residential quarters, the Karnataka Golf Association course on Airport Road on the Challaghatta lake and the Indian Space Research Organisation headquarters on the remains of the Nagashettihalli Lake.

Even the Forest Department has not spared them. It has convelted Hennur Lake into a tree park while the Bangalore City Corporation has done the same with Kamakshipalya Lake and Domlur tank bed. Many Bangalore Development Authority layouts have also sprung up on lakes and lake bed areas in Domlur, Miller's tank, Kurubahaili and Kodthalli.

It is deed heartening that the state government has announce-d a massive plan to rejuvenate all lakes and tanks in the city. While it is important to find out and name the culprits responsible for the lost lakes, at the same time, the government should map the existing ones and clearly spell out its action plan. Otherwise the vital lung spaces that breathe life into the city and absorb its pollutants may well fall prey to encroachments and die a cruel death.