Press release on the “Namma Kere, Namma Bengaluru” Workshop
(provided by Save Bangalore Lakes Trust)
Bangalore today is sitting on a silent time bomb of depleting and degrading quality of sources of water. One of the solutions lies in restoration of lakes for recharging its ground water, meeting water needs of the city and also in keeping its climate cool. Save Bangalore Lake Trust (SBLT) is a group of concerned citizens working for restoration, protection and maintenance of lakes in Bangalore. It aims to bring different lake groups or trusts in Bangalore on a common platform for a joint initiative, represent the voice and concerns of citizens of Bangalore, and work with government agencies for rejuvenation of lakes in Bangalore.
As a first step towards this, SBLT, together with Citizen Action Forum organized a workshop, Namma Kere, Namma Bengaluru on 30th November 2013 at Central College. The aim of the workshop was to bring different lake teams together for the sharing of best practices and debating various solutions to some of the key challenges for lakes in Bangalore.
The workshop was facilitated by Mr Sridhar Pabbisetty, who defined the objectives and goals of the workshop and conducted each of the four sessions.
Mr N S Mukunda gave an overview of the water situation of the city and how lakes play a crucial role in addressing this problem. He highlighted the fact that today lakes are dying due to encroachment of the water catchment areas and also the destruction of Raja Kaluves. He emphasized the need for using the Storm Water Network (SWN) as a source of water for lakes, and the importance of stopping any sewage from getting mixed with it.
Mr Ram Murthi shared the history of the citizens’ struggle for lake rejuvenation activities, particularly in the Bellandur Lake system. This was followed by a few stories of successes, legal battles, and the continuing struggle for lake rejuvenation. Ms Usha Rajagopalan talked about the rejuvenation of Puttenahalli Lake, the challenges faced, and how PNLIT is getting the community involved. Mr Subramanian Sankaran spoke about Kaikondrahalli Lake and how a group of citizens came together to form MAPSAP and work towards restoring the lake. Mr Ganesh Hiregoudar, from Akshayanagar Lake, described how a group of local residents came together and pooled money together to clean up and save the lake. Then there were the stories of two prolonged struggles to protect lake land from being mortgaged – one by Mr Vijayan Menon on the legal struggle for Meistripalya Lake and the other by Mr Venkat Subba Rao about Byrasandra Lake. Both of them talked about the land mafia trying to grab the lake land through fake documentation, conniving with unscrupulous elements and using legal loop holes for stretching the valiant fights put up by local people. It was a long legal struggle, patience and perseverance of more than 10 years in each of the cases for people to reclaim the lake!
Mr Balasubramanian Thirunavukkarasu shared the current status of all the lakes in Bangalore, their condition, status of encroachments, people’s involvement etc. It was informative to know that in spite of all the struggles by different individuals and groups of people, we have been able to rejuvenate only about 10 lakes.
Dr Arbind Kumar Gupta talked about the objectives SBLT and the plans for the future. He started with the problems faced by people in terms of issues raised, solutions proposed and concerns for dying lakes. Issues are often debated for about a week or so and then they get buried. It is difficult for common people to continue with their commitment in the absence of real hope for change. Lack of knowledge, information and expertise available is another challenge for people. The voices of a few concerned people seem to be insignificant and are often ignored by authorities. He then defined the objectives of SBLT:
- Make each effort count by multiplying the number of problem solving people for every problem
- Make each team a part of much larger network that provides support
- Create a stronger voice that will have more weight.
Dr Gupta proposed an approach where the responsibility of lake rejuvenation lies with the government but people play the role of citizens’ watchdog for the execution part. They can report any issue, wrong implementation, delay, encroachment of lake, etc. back to the concerned authorities. They can also provide lake design inputs to government agencies in the planning phase. It is also important to keep elected representatives in the loop as they can represent the people’s expectations and work with government agencies for policy formulations, making it a win-win situation for everyone. Lake rejuvenation through people’s participation he saw as the way forward, while proposing ideas on how SBLT can meet its objectives.
An extensive discussion followed. There were lots of suggestions and valuable inputs with which the lake movement can move forward.
Next was a brain storming session conducted by Mr Sridhar Pabbisetty. He first defined the key challenges facing the lakes, and then divided the participants into seven groups, each to brain storm on a selected issue and to propose solutions that could be taken ahead. These are being compiled for future use.
Takeaways from the workshop
* All responsibility for lake development should lie with one government agency that is empowered to do it fully (so that other government agencies work as per the plan). Every year, money should be allocated from the Karnataka budget for rejuvenation of all the lakes in the state.
* Sewage lines should be separated from storm water drains completely and this water, only after appropriate treatment, should be released to lakes. Sewage Treatment Plants should not be located near lakes.
* There needs to be a transparent and common policy wrt all points relating to lake rejuvenation.
* Citizens should be involved in decision making.
* There should be clear guidelines for making a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for a lake and inputs from citizens should be sought.
For further information please contact:
Dr Arbind Kumar Gupta – 9845193233
Mr Balasubramanian Thirunavukkarasu – 9632733700
Visit – www.facebook.com/SaveBengaluruLakes