Campaign against Lake Privatisation in Bangalore
The Lake Development Agency (LDA) was originally constituted by the Government of Karnataka, under the leadership of Chief Minister S M Krishna and closely guided by the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (a forum constituted by the government, primarily involving corporate chiefs drawn from the IT and BT sectors). Its purpose was ostensibly to conserve lakes by collaborating with 'non-profit organisations.'
However, soon after its inception the LDA began to conclude a series of long (15 year) lease agreements with a variety of private parties, handing over lakes for commercial development for very little rent. Under the Expression of Interest scheme, parties could develop a range of facilities that included floating restaurants, water scooters, entertainment parks, party kiosks, food courts, and so on. At least four large lakes (appropriately described as tanks, as these waterbodies are all built to harvest rain and surface runoff over hundreds of years) in Bangalore were handed over. These were Hebbal Lake to East India Hotel (Oberoi group of hotels), Nagawara (Lumbini - builder), Agara Lake (Biota, a little known company) and Vengaiah Kere (Par C, a local builder). In addition, the LDA farmed out over 20 lakes on a short term "Adopt a Lake" scheme.
ESG's Public Interest Litigation of January, 2008 (download PDF) argued that these schemes were illegal. We also argued that such a policy fences off public, social and ecological spaces from the public, and is an approach where the State is abandoning its duty to protect and maintain nature and the public commons. The approach has had a debilitating impact on cattle rearers and fishing communities, still dependent on lakes for their livelihoods. Private parties have fenced off these lakes and charge unaffordable user fees to access them, making it impossible for local communities to use these public spaces as their commons.
Additionally, these water bodies are critical for the water security of the city. Their role continues to be important in a city that is highly stressed for both water and open space. Lake privatisation would also have a terrible impact on the ecology of lakes, particuarly for migratory waterfowl. Turning a lake into a commercialised water theme park (as the Oberois planned to do with Hebbal Lake) would mean destroying the living ecosystem that it sustains.
On November 4th, 2008, the High Court of Karnataka passed an interim order restricting the Government and private parties from proceeding with any further investment or development of lakes based on the privatisation (PPP) model. The Court gave two weeks to the Govt to file a comprehensive plan for the protection of lakes and gardens in a manner that would ensure everyone, especially the "have nots", could enjoy the bounty of nature. Read more...
ESG is an independent not-for-profit organisation that promotes the cause of environmental and social justice through research, documentation, advocacy, training and campaign support. We aim to support the rights of local communities and voiceless ecosystems in a responsible, progressive manner that keeps contextual complexities in mind.