Lake boundaries and fencing, sewage inflow, dry inlets, garbage dumping, encroaching hutments, weeds, funding for restoration and maintenance… These are some of the problems faced by Bangalore’s lakes. And these are problems that could be solved by the intervention of the municipality, local corporators and/ or MLAs. Can the MPs help?
“Lakes”, as a part of the environment, finds mention in the Constitution of India. Article 51A Part IVA lists eleven Fundamental Duties of every citizen of India, and one of them reads as below.
“It shall be the duty of every citizen of India…
to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild-life, and to have compassion for living creatures”.
These Fundamental Duties, unlike Fundamental Rights, are suggestive/ non-obligatory, which means that one cannot be punished for not performing/ violating them. However, the very fact that they are mentioned in the Constitution indicates that it is important for citizens (and the government) to try to fulfil them, and they serve as a guide for laws that can be enforced.
MPs have the power at the national level, to try to bring in laws, policies and schemes that will protect our urban lakes at the state level.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had been implementing two Centrally Sponsored Schemes, National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP) and National Wetlands Conservation Programme (NWCP).
In February 2013 these were merged into a new scheme, National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA), with the overall objective of conserving aquatic ecosystems (lakes and wetlands) through implementation of sustainable conservation plans, and governed with application of uniform policy and guidelines. NPCA is to be operational during the XII Plan Period (2013-2017) at an estimated cost of Rs.900 crore, with 70:30 cost sharing between the Central Government and respective State Governments (90:10 for North-East States).
According to the MoEF website, the objectives of NPCA include:
– holistic conservation and restoration of lakes and wetlands for achieving desired water quality enhancement
– improvement in biodiversity and ecosystem through an integrated and multidisciplinary approach with a common regulatory framework
– contribution to reduction of pollution loads and improvement in biodiversity as also the goods and services provided by these water bodies to the stakeholders.
– implementation of comprehensive Management Action Plans
– inventorization and information system on lakes and wetlands
– national level directive on criteria for lakes and wetlands
– regulatory framework (revisiting the Wetlands Rules, 2010)
– capacity building at State Government and local body levels, evaluation, etc.
MPs can get involved to ensure that Bangalore’s lakes are included in the plan and receive funding.
A research paper
While searching for any other existing schemes, I came across a comprehensive research paper titled Protection and Management of Urban Lakes in India by Amandeep Kang, Research Associate, Water Research & Advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi (published 2013-14).
Amandeep has discussed the threats faced by urban water bodies who have been “victims to unplanned urbanization in India” – pollution, encroachment, eutrophication, illegal mining activities, ungoverned tourist activities and cultural misuse.
He has also listed the challenges and gaps in lake management
– lack of a clear and detailed definition of lakes (according to the old NLCP, a water body should have a minimum water depth of 3m and should cover a water spread of more than ten hectares to be considered as a lake, so instead of providing any identity or protection to a lake, this actually works in the favour of corrupt elements of the society for whom the only significance of a water body is its land value)
– lack of data/ information on lakes (because of this, lakes sometimes vanish from survey records)
– lack of acknowledgement of a water body as a land use category (water bodies are considered a waste of space)
– lack of systematic strategy and coordination (no management of water bodies)
– lack of an ecosystem approach (catchment is not given importance)
– lack of participation and capacity building (poor awareness on water bodies)
– lack of balance of interests in management approaches (no community ownership).
Taking into account the threats and challenges, of protecting urban water bodies the following recommendations have been made:
– develop a clear and elaborate definition of ‘lake’ that must consider all the aspects of a water body including the climatic and ecological
– make lake management plans with a holistic understanding and acknowledgement of a lake system (restoration of catchments is more important than beautification)
– have a clear vision regarding the level of rejuvenation of water bodies (determine the level of restoration that is acceptable)
– provide ecological orientation and develop an appreciation of ecosystem services among urban managers
– valuate the ecosystem services provided by a water body by quantifying its benefits
– develop a systematic strategy involving all the components that have an impact on the water body and the involved stakeholders along with a better coordination among the government agencies, as part of lake and wetlands restoration and protection programmes
– replace the fast track development programmes, such as JNNURM with well-analyzed and environmentally sustainable programmes based on a holistic understanding of urban environment and its needs
– use stakeholder participation and capacity building as an important instrument for better management of urban water bodies (without making the citizens aware of the importance and benefits of lakes and wetlands in their lives, it is extremely difficult to implement laws effectively).
Amandeep’s research paper Protection and Management of Urban Lakes in India can be read in full here.
Most of these recommendations can be linked back to NPCA, and other government policies and funding (land use, environmental clearance, underground drainage, etc.) and MPs can try to get these addressed through the centre.
Let us choose MPs who will empathise with the needs of Bangalore’s lakes. They can make a difference!