Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail, the quote that best describes the management of Lakes in Bengaluru. Once upon a time we were a city of 1000 Lakes goes the story and what is see now is a weak attempt to save the 280 odd Lakes that has turned into Sewage pools.
As the voices that are fighting to save the Lakes become meeker, the challenges to Retrieve, Save, Revive and Manage the Lakes are only increasing. 16-17 yrs ago, when most of the Lakes were fenced and Lake Development Authority (LDA) was formed, it was seen as a first step to consolidate all the Bengaluru Lakes under a single entity. But that effort stayed in files that gathered dust for years, rather gave way to privatization of Lakes followed by litigations and wrath of the Environmentalists. Eventually the Activists and Citizens watched the rampant encroachments and Lakes turning into concreate buildings helplessly, or with a little resistance.
Karnataka Lake Conservation & Development Authority (KLCDA) ACT 2014 kept the City Lakes out, then later when all the Lakes across the state were handed over to Minor Irrigation the City Lakes were looking at one more vacuum and Activists were guessing what would happen next, the final blow came with the current Government decided to handover all the City Lakes that were with Forest Department and BDA to BBMP for intent unknown, exposing the Lakes to more Political hands without heads.
In the garb of growth and development the sustainability of the city hangs in balance, extreme localization of the Lake management has increased political interference and isolation of Lakes converting them into single units.
Bengaluru Lakes is a network Water System and are not isolated units, and reviving few odd Lakes will not paint a pretty picture either. Lakes in Bengaluru are Rain Water Harvesting Zones, Flood Mitigators, Bio-diversity spots, Lung spaces, Livelihood creators and overflow to Rural Water bodies providing Water for Agriculture. But current policy and structure negates the Water System and takes up revivals ignoring the upstream, catchment and downstream.
So, there is an urgent need to re-look at our Lakes and Water bodies with a fresh pair of Green Glasses; and begin with four key steps:
Strengthen the Authority - since all Bengaluru Lakes are with BBMP Lakes division empower it to remove encroachments without more red tapes, joint responsibility on storm water drains, lake inlets and catchment areas, make them accountable to Karnataka Tank Conservation & Development Authority (KTCDA) and Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), allocate committed budget and resource for recovery, revival, monitoring and conservation, make National Green Tribunal (NGT) guidelines and review mandatory.
Vision for Lakes - with over all Vision for Bengaluru Lake which is the complete Water System, objectives, uniqueness of each Lake should be documented along with the local stakeholders (citizens, fishermen, activists, farmers etc.) this will help in drawing up a long-term monitoring and conservation plan for each Lake along with financial requirements.
Recovery & Revival - implement suggestion from Justice N K Patil report, recovery of Lake lands and buffer zones as per NGT guidelines and fence the Lakes as an initial step to protect Lakes. Revival of Lakes needs a comprehensive and standardization focusing on catchments area, inlets, wetlands, biodiversity, utilities based on the Vision of the Lake.
Policy Stability - Lakes of Bengaluru have been a victim of constant policy changes leading to inconsistency and apathy, multiple experiments on Lakes need to end thereby making way to a clear and consistent sustainable conservation policy.
Time is running out, Bengaluru cannot afford to fails its Lakes any more, with almost consistent rainfall, ability to recycle waste water every step has to be taken to Conserve Lakes and make the Bengaluru Water Sufficient and Efficient.