Stop privatization

By Deepa Kozhisseri
Published: Monday 15 December 2008

Court told Karnataka's lake authority

the Karnataka High Court on November 4 directed the state's Lake Development Authority, or lda, to stop leasing lakes to private parties. It also asked developers to provide a submission stating that no more investments or developments will be made in Nagwara, Hebbal, Vengaiah Kere and Agara lakes in Bengaluru.

The ruling came in the wake of the Karnataka forest department coming down heavily on private players in its assessment of the impact of leasing lakes to them in Bengaluru. The high court directed the forest department to report on the status of the four lakes after a public interest petition was filed in January this year by the city-based ngo Environment Support Group. The group had challenged lda's leasing the four lakes for 15 years to private developers (see 'Bangalore lakes leased out', Down To Earth, May 15, 2008).

The judge in his order remarked, "We cannot be mute spectators ... (when the common man has to) stare at a lake through a fence. If this is permitted, a time will come when people will have to pay to enter Cubbon Park and Lal Bagh (Bengaluru's two big parks)."

Hebbal Lake was leased to East India Hotel of Oberoi group of hotels, Nagawara Lake to Lumbini Builders, Agara Lake to Biota, a little known company and Vengaiah Kere to Par C, a Bengaluru builder. Under the agreement the developers can build restaurants and develop water sports and food courts. Nagwara Lake has nearly disappeared amid food courts and amusement parks. Dredging is going on in Hebbal Lake where water sports activities and a jogging tract are on the anvil. A fee is charged for entry to both lakes.

Non-profits have been protesting privatization of lakes, saying it affects fishing communities and cattle owners. These lakes are also critical habitats for aquatic birds. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests P J Dileep Kumar said in the report placed before the court on June 23 that such developments would only disturb the ecology of the lakes.

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