In its August 4 hearing, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said that the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has wrongly understood that biodiversity parks are to be set up within the lake boundary.

In December 2019, the NGT had ordered for the development of the biodiversity parks. BDA had suggested an area of 52.24 acres in Bellandur Lake and 16.6 acres in Varthur Lake for biodiversity parks and had undertaken work in Bellandur Lake near Suncity and Yamlur and in respect of Varthur Lake, near Belagere and Siddapura. However, the environmental experts say that if BDA goes ahead with the project the water holding capacity of the lakes will be affected and the development authority wants to escape from the illegal construction on the Varthur Lake it facilitated in 2017.

In 2017, the Minor Irrigation department facilitated an illegal construction of a pipeline and a road on the lake. The pipeline was meant to pump treated water to tanks in Kolar. Now defunct, the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) that was the nodal authority of all water bodies in the state was kept out of the loop of this construction. Many experts feel that with the construction of the park the BDA would escape the onslaught it brought to the Varthur Lake.

In January this year, the BDA floated a tender for desilting Bellandur and Varthur for Rs 250 crore and Rs 150 crore.

Explaining the futility behind the construction of the parks, environmental expert Nagesh Aras explained that in case of the Varthur lake, BDA had the excuse that the MI department had placed a pipeline in the middle of the lake, because of which water could not reach one part of the lake, and it had gone dry, so they proposed to construct a biodiversity park in the dry part of the lake.

“Well, they can easily place a culvert below the pipeline to allow water to flow across. In the case of Bellandur lake, they did not have such a problem at all: Here, BDA wanted to avoid transporting the silt to a far off place, by piling up the silt in a part of the lake and building a biodiversity park. Well, a biodiversity park is like a normal garden, except that it has a variety of vegetation planted in it. But a biodiversity park cannot absorb the nutrients in water like a wetland can: It is just like a normal garden in this regard. Thus a biodiversity park is not a noble aim that can justify sacrificing the lake body,” Aras explained.

While the NGT in its order in December 2019 had stated that development of biodiversity parks should be taken up, in its hearing on August 4 it said that the BDA has wrongly understood that biodiversity parks are to be set up within the lake boundary. “Enquiry should be conducted about the illegality in laying the pipeline by the Minor Irrigation Department,” the NGT stated.

Commenting over the issue Ram Prasad, co-founder, Friends of Lakes said that lakes are not meant for parks as it impacts the water holding capacity.

“The DPRs of lake rejuvenation are bereft of Engineering and Environmental standard procedures with mathematical and scientific modeling. The lack of coordination between Storm Water Drain (SWD) Lakes, and Horticulture departments of BBMP is strikingly seen in the planning as well as in the implementation of lake rejuvenation and its sustainability even for a few years is questionable. The internationally mandated Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) guidelines are not even part of the DPRs for sustainable development of lakes, hence expecting any good improvement in the condition of Bengaluru lakes in terms of water quantity and quality is a far fetched dream,” he remarked.

Over 50-lakh cubic meter of silt in Varthur lake has to be removed. The work to desilt the lake is yet to commence.

“Wherever they will be constructing the Biodiversity Park the water holding capacity of the lake should not be reduced. Though the authorities say that water holding capacity will not be reduced we expect the expertise study by the institutes like the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) and Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE) which have pioneered in hydrology and ecology. The BDA is doing it without the consultation of anybody,” said Jagadish Reddy, member of Varthur Rising.

Written by: Aksheev Thakur

About the Author: Aksheev Thakur has been working as a defence and environment correspondent in Bangalore. An alumni of Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai he has worked with major news publications. His stories on the illegal quarrying and Lake encroachments in Bangalore were followed by the major publications.