Expert panel opposes desilting of Mysuru's Kukkarahalli Lake

A two-member committee recommended that the existing polluted water should first be pumped out and then the lake should be filled with clean water

By Sagar Hugar,
Published: Tuesday 25 April 2017
Citizens and environmentalists have been protesting against the desilting of the Kukkarahalli Lake in Mysuru. Vishwas Krishna/Flickr__

A two-member committee set up to study Kukkarahalli Lake’s development plan, started by the University of Mysore, has strictly recommended against desilting, among other initiatives.   

Appointed by the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority, the committee submitted its report on April 21 to the Deputy Commissioner of Mysuru, D Randeep, arguing that instead of desilting the lake, it should be filled up with clean water.

Once water with less turbidity and enough dissolved oxygen is filled, the oxygen and sunlight may gradually break down the toxic silt deposited on the lake bed. In that case no desilting will be necessary,” said the report.

The members, Rama Prasad, former professor at the Indian Institute of Science and C N Babu, a retired chief engineer, recommended that the existing inlets should be diverted. The report reasoned that sewage comes through natural drains and carries rainwater during monsoon. Since the rainwater is mixed with sewage, it must be diverted to avoid polluting the lake. The committee also recommended pumping out the existing polluted water before filling the lake with clean water under expert guidance.

In 2012, the University of Mysore and the district administration had announced a Rs 3-crore project for the revival of the lake, home to over 80 species of butterflies and more than 100 species of birds. This included desilting, construction of toilets, boating jetty, entry arches and shelters on the tank bund. But soon after the desilting work began in February 2017, environmental enthusiasts, including botanists, bird-watchers, non-profits and students, staged a protest under the banner of Kukkarahalli Kere Ulisi Horata Simithi (which means save Kukkarahalli Lake) against desilting. They alleged that desilting can disturb the original lake bed and increase losses through seepage.

They also voiced their concerns about the disproportionate distribution of funds in the project. While the revival of the lake was allotted only Rs 2.5 million, the university allotted Rs 6.5 million for desilting.

On March 1, the Deputy Commissioner then asked the university authorities to stop desilting and wrote to the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) to appoint two field experts to submit a report on the same. The desilting was halted until the report was submitted.

The report said, “The tell-tale left in the desilted area for the purpose of measurement indicate that silt deposited thickness was of the order of 15 centimeters, but soil was removed up to a depth of one metre. This means that much more original mother soil was removed than silt.” This should be avoided, added the report.

The team was assisted by the former president of the National Institute of Engineers -Suresh Babu, chief engineer with KLCDA-Nagaraj, environmentalist U N Ravikumar and K N Jayaramaiah, the convener of Kukkarahalli Kere Ulisi Horata Samithi. After collecting opinions on development of the lake and its environmental impacts from both pro- and anti-development groups, the committee recommended the commissioner to not approve projects such as e-water harmoniser system, floating drum deck, fixing of diffused aerator system, construction of the boating jetty, orchidarium, butterfly park, bamboo park, adventure park and aquarium. The panel approved sign boards, tree identification boards, dustbins and ticket booths.

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