Lakes in Bangalore
Lakes in Bangalore, Karnataka are numerous, and there are no rivers close by. Most lakes in the Bangalore region were constructed in the sixteenth century by damming the natural valley systems by constructing bunds.
The effect of urbanization has taken some heavy toll on the Beautiful lakes in Bangalore. The lakes in the city have been largely encroached for urban infrastructure and as result, in the heart of the city only 17 good lakes exist as against 51 healthy lakes in 1985. Urban development has caused 19 lakes getting converted to bus stands, Golf courses, playgrounds and residential colonies, and few tanks were breached under the malaria eradication programme.
In recent years, the Management of Lakes traditionally done by the government agencies witnessed experimentation by the Lake Development Authority with a limited public–private sector participation in respect of three lakes, which has proved controversial and resulted in almost a reversal of the policy.
The earliest history of creation of lakes in and around the city is traced to the founders of Bangalore or Bengaluru –the Kempe Gowdas– in the Sixteenth century and later by the Wodeyars of Mysore Kingdom and the British.
Most of the lakes and tanks were man made for purposes of drinking water, irrigation and fishing needs and they have also favorably influenced microclimate of the city. The lake waters have also served as "Dhobhi Ghats" or places where washer–men (‘dhobis’ is the locale usage in India), have traditionally used them as a means of livelihood for washing clothes and drying them. The lakes have also served to replenish ground water resources in the vicinity, which are tapped through wells for drinking water.
In the 1960s the number of tanks and lakes was 280 and less than 80 in 1993. Until 1895 unfiltered water was supplied from tanks like Dharmambudhi (present day Bus station), Millers tank (Area opposite Cantonment railway station), Sankey and Ulsoor tanks. From 1896 water was supplied from Hessarghtta and from 1933 it was also obtained from Thippagondanahalli. In the 1970s the scheme to pump water from the Cauvery river 100 kilometres away was begun. The water needed to be raised up by 500 metres. The water demand in 2001 was 750 million litres per day and the actual supply is only 570 million litres per day and the per capita usage is about 105 litres per day. The national standard is 150 litres per day while the international standard is 200 litres per capita per day.
Most of the lakes have vanished due to encroachment and construction activity for urban infrastructure expansion. The city once had 280-285 lakes of which 7 cannot be traced, 7 are reduced to small pools of water, 18 have been unauthorisedly encroached by slums and private parties, 14 have dried up and are leased out by the Government. 28 lakes have been used by the Bangalore Development Authority to distribute sites and build extensions for residential areas. The remaining lakes are in fairly advanced state of deterioration.
- Challaghatta lake changed to Karnataka Golf Association
- Koramangala lake changed to National Games Complex in Ejipura
- Siddikatte Lake has now become KR Market
- Karanji tank is the Gandhi Bazar area
- Kempambudhi is now a sewerage collection tank
- Nagashettihalli lake changed to Space department
- Kadugondanahalli lake changed to Ambedkar Medical College
- Domlur lake changed to BDA layout
- Millers lake changed to Guru Nanak Bhavan, Badminton Stadium
- Subhashnagar lake changed to Residential layout
- Kurubarahalli lake changed to Residential layout
- Kodihalli lake changed to Residential layout
- Sinivaigalu lake changed to Residential layout
- Marenahalli lake changed to Residential layout
- Shivanahalli lake changed to Playground, Bus stand
- Chenamma tank changed to a burial ground, Banashankari 2nd Stage
- Puttennahalli tank changed to J.P. Nagar 6th Phase
- Jakkarayanakere has been converted into a sports ground
- Kamakshipalya Lake is converted into a sports ground
- Baalayyana Kere (kamakshipalya) is converted into a sports ground
- Dasarahalli tank is converted into Dr. B.R Ambedkar Stadium
- Bagalagunte hosa-kere in sy No 83 changed to residential layout
- Bagalagunte Hale-kere in sY No.113 encroached partly, all the side of lake
- Jaraganahalli lake in survey number 29/2C of jaraganahalli village, uttarahalli hobli, Bangalore south taluk. This is on kanakapura road, very close to sarakki signal. The lake has been completely encroached.
Topography and hydrology
The topographic setting of the city has radial slopes towards east and west with a smooth ridge running north to south; rainfall over the ridge area gets divided and flows east or west into the three gentle slopes and valleys of Koramangala–Challagatta, Hebbal and Vrishabavathi. Doddabettahalli 1,062 m (3,484.3 ft) is the highest point on this ridge. These naturally undulating terrain of hills and valleys, lends itself perfectly to the development of lakes that can capture and store rainwater. Small streams are formed by each valley starting with the ridge at the top. A series of shallow tanks varying in size are developed. The gentle topography has also good potential of ground water development.
Water resources are important for urban areas as they provide for a wide range of uses. Bangalore, with annual rainfall of 900 mm (3.0 ft) with three different rainy seasons covering nine months of the year. June to October is the rainy season accounting for 64% of the total annual rainfall in the S-W monsoon period and 324 mm (1.1 ft)during the N–E monsoons (November – December.). It has a salubrious climate with an annual mean temperature of 24 °C (75.2 °F) with extremes ranging from 37 °C (98.6 °F) to 15 °C (59.0 °F) . The streams between ridges and valleys have been dammed at suitable locations creating a cascade of reservoirs in each of the three valley systems. Each lake stores rain water from its catchments with excess flows spilling downstream into the next lake in the cascade. The storm water runs off through drains only. These drains often carry sewage in it, which results in the lakes getting polluted. Many lakes have reportedly springs at the bottom of the lakes, some of which are stated to be choked due to silt, which also feed the lakes.
The dependence on lakes, tanks, ponds, wells and other sources, in the past for supply of raw water to the city was de–linked with treated supplies arranged from river based schemes such as the "Chamarajendra Water Works" (Hesaraghatta Lake) built in 1894 and the "Chamarajasagar Reservoir" at T G Halli across the Arkavathy River in 1933 and subsequent sourcing from the Cauvery River schemes.
List of lakes
Notable lakes in Bangalore are:
- Akshayanagara Kere - Situated in Akshayanagara near Hulimavu, Bannerghatta Road. Community participation is bringing new life to this lake. It is on the verge of becoming one of the enviable success stories for the struggling lot of lakes in Bangalore.
- Bellandur Lake - The largest lake in the city, situated to the southeast. It is highly polluted with sewage.
- Ulsoor lake - Situated in Halasuru near M G Road. Facilities for boating, park, children's play area, fountains, Ganesha Chaturthi immersion place. Paddle boats are operated here
- Sankey tank - Renovated lately. park, Ganesha Chaturthi immersion place, jogging area.
- Madiwala Lake - One of the biggest lakes. Park, children's play area are there. Paddle boating is conducted here.
- Lalbagh lake - Situated in Lalbagh garden.
- Puttenahalli Lake (Yelahanka)
- Hebbal Lake
- Varthur Lake - with area of 180.40 hectares (445.8 acres) is the second largest lake in Bangalore.
- Jaraganahalli lake - with area of around 4acres, located on the main kanakapura road (survey no. 29/2C, jaraganahalli) next to government school ground.
- Begur lake : Situated near Pancha linga nageshwara temple, Begur
- ISRO Layout Lake (also known as Devarakere Lake) spread across 7 acres-15 guntas in ISRO Layout(JP Nagar) maintained by BDA (BDA South Engineering Division) falling under BBMP South Zone
- Sarakki lake
- Vibhutipura Lake - 40 Acres lake, recently taken up by BDA for restoration. This lake is near HAL. It currently has a park called Uthkarsh park
- Doddanakkundi Lake - 150 Acres Lake, taken up by BDA for restoration
- Nagavara lake, Lumbini gardens mini amusement park is located here. Boating also conducted for public.
- Munnekolala lake - AECS Layout, which was restored during the 4th quarter of 2016
- Agara lake
- Kempambudhi Lake
- Puttenahalli Lake (JP Nagar)
- Kothnur Lake - This is a beautiful lake situated in Kothnuru Dinne, J.P.Nagar 8th Phase, but now has become a place for dumping garbage and for open defecation. Recently, the residents of Rajathadri Layout, Pavamana Nagara, Nayak Layout and Surabhi Nagara have joined hands for restoration. This association is dedicated for the sustainable development of the lake.
- Horamavu Lake
- Kammasandra lakes
Other lakes in Bangalore are Allalasandra, Attur Lake, BTM Lake, Chinnappannahalli, Doddanekundi, Kalkere, Kowdenhalli, Keravanhalli, Karithimmanhalli, Kaikondanahalli, Kengeri, Kodigenahalli, Kundalahalli, Mahadevpura, Seetharampalya, Thubarahalli, Uttarahalli, Doraikere, Dipanjali, Malgan,Veerasagara(Attur in Yelahanka), Veerasandra and Yelahanka.
Status of two of the centrally located lakes, namely, the Ulsoor Lake and the Sankey tank, which have been restored by the Forest Department of the State, are elaborated in the following sections.
Flora and fauna
- Lake vegetation comprise: typha, lily, nelumbo, algae, tapegrass (Vallisneria spiralis), mosses, ferns, reeds and rushes (Juncaceae)
- The birds recorded are: purple moorhen also known as purple swamphen, pheasant-tailed jacana, cormorants, brahminy kite, darter, kingfishers, weaver birds, purple heron, grey herons, Indian pond herons, little grebes, coots and teals can be found here. See List of birds of Bangalore for a comprehensive list.
- The lakes are rich in the following fish species: common carp, grass carp, catla, rohu, Ompok bimaculatus, Notopteris notopteris, Anguilla bicolor bicolor (Indonesian shortfin eel), ticto barb, long-snouted barb, Tilapia sp. and Cirrhinus mrigala.
- The fauna recorded are: freshwater turtles (terrapin), frogs, naiads, crabs, molluscs and many more.
The lakes of the city have been largely encroached for urban infrastructure, and as result, in the heart of the city only 17 good lakes exist as against 51 healthy lakes in 1985. According to a scientific study carried out by the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the water bodies of the city have reduced from 3.40 per cent (2,324 ha (5,742.7 acres)) in 1973 to just about 1.47 per cent (1,005 ha (2,483.4 acres)) in 2005 with built up area during the corresponding period increasing to 45.19 per cent (30,476 ha (75,307.8 acres)) from 27.30 per cent (18,650 ha (46,085.2 acres)). The adverse results of such large change are reported to be:
- Frequent flooding and micro–climatic changes in the city
- Undesirable impact on the diversity of flora and fauna
- Decrease in the number of migratory birds
- Fishing community and washer-men will be robbed of their livelihood
Historically lakes in the Bangalore region were managed by a plethora of government agencies such as the Forest Department, Minor Irrigation Department, Horticulture Department, Public Works Department (PWD), Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Tourism Department, City Municipal Councils and Panchayats; each organisation claiming its own jurisdiction of ownership and maintenance rights resulting in a deficient, inconsistent and uncoordinated approach.
Expert Committees set up by the Karnataka Government, since 1986, highlighted the failure of the various bodies maintaining lakes in protecting them and also suggested that:.
- Existing tanks not be breached but retained as water bodies
- Efforts should be made to ensure that the tanks are not polluted by discharge of effluent and industrial wastes
- Prevent silting up of the tanks by offshore development through tree planting and also removal of encroachments
- Breached Tanks not be used for formation of sites but should be used to create tree parks
- De-weed all tanks and develop aquatic life
- The tank areas where there are no atchkat (agricultural land) should be transferred to the Forest Department for developing tree parks/foreshore tree planting and formation of regional parks
- Encroachments on tank areas by the Bangalore Development Authority / Bangalore City Corporation / Minor Irrigation Department to be removed
- Monitoring of progress of all the above activities by the Forest Department, Bangalore Development Authority, Bangalore City Corporation, Minor Irrigation Department, Bangalore Water Supply an Sewerage Board and Town Planning Department
- Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board to be entrusted with the responsibility for the maintenance of water bodies in a clean and safe condition
- Examine possibility of construction of more tanks along the natural valleys with surplus runoff and implemented.
A Public Interest Litigation was also filed in July 1985 citing the recommendations of the Expert Committee for implementation and the High Court duly directed the Government of Karnataka to take immediate steps for acting on the recommendations. The Government initiated action to establish a separate authority to address the problem of lakes and implement the recommendations of the Expert Committee and the Lake Development Authority was thus established in July 2002.
Lake Development Authority
The Government of Karnataka, following the directive of The Honourable High Court of Karnataka and considering the unchecked deterioration of lakes in and around Bangalore and keeping in line with their critical role in maintaining healthy environs and recharging of ground water, set up the Lake Development Authority (LDA) in July 2002 as a registered society under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1959, as a non-profit organisation and a para–statal body with a mandate of
working solely for the regeneration and conservation of lakes in and around Bangalore city within BMRDA jurisdiction in the first instance, would be extended to other parts of Karnataka subsequently.
A Governing Council and other groups have been set up for the smooth functioning of the LDA. LDA’s jurisdiction has been extended, in July 2003, to cover other city corporations and town municipalities in the State. The Authority is high powered body headed by a Chairman who is the Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, Additional Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka as Vice-Chairman, with a Chief Executive Officer, Lake Development Authority as Member Secretary with other members drawn from Planning, Science and Technology Department, Forest, Ecology and Environment Department, Finance Department, Information and Tourism Department, Urban Development Department, Minor Irrigation Department. Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Department all at the level of Principal Secretaries to the State Govt, Director, NRCD, as representative from MOEF, Government of India, The Secretary (Environment & Ecology), Department of Forest, Ecology and Environment, the Secretary to Government (Horticulture) Agriculture and Horticulture Department, Chairmen of Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and Bangalore Water Supply & Sewerage Board and Commissioners of Bangalore Mahanagara Palike and Bangalore Development Authority.
The defined charter of functions of the LDA is:.
- Restoring lakes and facilitation of restoration of depleting ground water table.
- Diverting/treating sewage to generate alternative sources of raw water and preventing contamination of underground aquifers from wastewater.
- Environmental Impact Assessment studies
- Environmental mapping and GIS mapping of lakes and surrounding areas.
- Improving and creating habitat for water birds and wild plants. Reducing sullage and non-point water impacts.
- Improving urban sanitation and health condition especially of the weaker sections living close to the lakes.
- Impounding run–off water to ensure recharge of ground water aquifers and revival of bore wells.
- Monitoring and management of water quality and lake ecology.
- Utilising the lake for the purpose of education and tourism.
- Community participation and public awareness programmes for lake conservation.
The LDA initially identified 2,789 large, medium and small lakes within Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (BMRDA) limits including 608 within the limits of Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) to take remedial and restoration measures. The Authority sought financial support from various funding agencies to implement identified activities. Several organisations and funding agencies have been involved in restoration of lakes in Bangalore and the activity has been coordinated by the Lake Development Authority. The details are:
- With funding from Indo–Norwegian Environment Programme (INEP), the Hebbal Lake, Madivala Lake and Dodda Bommasandra Lake have been restored by the Forest Department of the state
- The National Lake Conservation Programme (NLCP) under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India have funded restoration works of Vengaihnakere, Jaraganahalli – Sarakki and Nagavara lakes implemented by the Forest Department of the state
- The Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP) or the Bangalore City Municipal Corporation has carried out restoration works of the Yediyur Lake, the Kempambudi Lake, the Ulsoor Lake, the Sankey tank, the Tavarekere and the Byrasandra (Jayanagar) Lake.
Apart from the above lakes, LDA is coordinating lake restoration works, outside the Bangalore city, in other parts of the state with funding from the National Lake Conservation Programme (NLCP)
In 2004, the LDA, which is a parastatal organisation, began a process of "public-private participation" where private companies bid for the lakes to "develop and maintain" them for the next 15 years with the specified Terms of Reference. The tender specified the following Terms of Reference.
- Desilting, dredging, sewage diversions, constructed wetland, bio-remedial measures
- Construction of water treatment plants, chain link fencing
This was to be followed by beautification of lakes through:
- Landscaping and gardening
- Foreshore and island development
- Creation of tree parks, rock gardens
- Walkways, jogging path, cycling track
- Fountains, children play area
- Electrification for illumination
- Boat jetty
- Eco-friendly restaurants
- Urban (joy) fishing, bird watching, butterfly park, aviaries and boating
The following lakes were leased out to private parties; the Hebbal Lake to E.I.H, the Nagavara Lake to Lumbini Gardens and the Venkanayakere to ParC Ltd out of which the first two were initially allotted. In May 2006, LDA leased out the Hebbal Lake, one of the largest lakes in Bangalore, to East India Hotels (the Oberoi group) for a period of 15 years for an annual lease amount of Rs. 72,10,000 (about US$1.44 million) and an annual escalation of 1.5% in the amount and an Investment of Rs.16,75,00,000 (about US$0.34 million) with a security deposit of 1.5% (Rs.25,12,500 – about US$0,50million) under the Public-Private Partnership policy. The Nagavara Lake was leased to Lumbini Gardens Pvt Ltd in April 2005 for a period of 15 years for an annual lease amount of Rs.4023,000 (about US $0.80 million) with an annual escalation of 1.5% of this amount every year for the 15–year lease period and with Investment of Rs.7,01,00,000 (about US$14.02 million) with a security deposit of 2% of this amount (Rs.14,20,000 – about US$0.284million).
As per the lease agreement, the above referred agencies were to carry out the development and maintenance of the lakes by:
- Setting up water treatment plant
- Deweeding the lake
- Controlling of storm water entry by building check dams
- Do land scaping, build a rose garden and also a rock garden
- Build jogging tracks and erect fountains
- Put up 4.5 m (14.8 ft) high Buddha statue.
- Develop an artificial beach as an amusement activity
- Develop water sport activities such as aqua karting, water scooter rides and paragliding
- Set up food courts, restaurants, including a floating restaurant
The social damage caused due to privatisation, as reported by a researcher, are:
- There is dichotomy in the functions allocated by the vesting of powers with LDA to maintain only the water body and some part of the shore line while the shore and lands adjoining the lakes, which also play an important role in the overall maintenance and health of lakes, are with district bodies. This state of affairs creates a complex situation of not addressing the lake as a continuum with land.
- The lakes are being developed as stand alone water bodies without a linkage to other lakes
- Land use regulations are violated as the private developers of the two lakes have not sought permission for change in land use from the Bangalore Development Authority for converting the Nagavara and Hebbal Lakes for commercial use; a case of non compliance of the law.
- Fauna dependent on the lake, like birds, fish and others are disturbed by the excess and disturbing human activity
- Conversion of the lakes and their surrounding areas into exclusive resorts, with entry fee access to the lake areas. The private developers are in the real estate/hospitality business with profit motive
- Violation of land use regulations by the private organisations while implementing the scheme
- Proposed construction of a 223–room Hotel at the side of Hebbal Lake is indication that private developer has taken the lease purely for commercial and business purposes. Such a development would exclude access to the lake for the general public.
- Lakes are common property resources, in which a group of people have co–user rights. The impact of the privatisation scheme would, therefore, need to be addressed legally
- The socio–economic impacts or apprehensions of the people such as fishermen dependent on the lake for livelihood is that there could be restrictions on their fishing rights and washer–men (dhobis) also have similar apprehensions
The above private sector activities have resulted in major protests from citizen groups. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests has been urged by 500 residents requesting for abandoning the programme of handing over lakes to privatisation of lakes as they are developed as recreation focal points. Civil rights groups are in the fore front of these protests as they allege that the lake which is a common property resource is illegally fenced off and thus only privileged few could access it While the private developer contends that the lake will be a unique recreational place, the others feel that the entry fee of Rs 20 per person would exclude the traditional users (farmers, fishing communities, cattle herders, washer–men, and casual workers) of the lake. Environmentalists mention that the lake’s wetland ecology sustained scores of water birds but it will soon become only a pretty hygienic bowl. Environmentalists also say that four types of vegetation in the ecosystem grow at different water depths, sustaining about 30 species of birds. Birds such as sandpipers and clovers will find the lake too deep once the lake is deepened by removing the silt. Deep water birds such as ducks and cormorants will be disturbed by boating. 
The Lake Development Authority contends that the organisation is not adequately staffed and that they do not have the finances for maintaining lakes on an ongoing basis. Hence, the alternative is leasing out lakes to private parties.
Public interest litigation
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in 2008 by an Environmental Support Group (a Trust) and a public spirited individual of Bangalore in the High Court of Bangalore citing 16 respondents with the Lake Development Authority (LDA) as the second main respondent and the favoured respondents (at serial number 14,15 and 16) namely M/s Biota Natural Systems (I) Pvt. Ltd, M/s Lumbini Gardens Ltd., and M/s E. I. H. Limited, in respect of the ongoing privatisation of lakes/tanks in Bangalore. The PIL contends that:
- Actions taken by the respondents are against settled legal norms in respect of Management and conservation of such ecologically sensitive water bodies (also wildlife habitats) and which support a variety of customary and traditional rights
- Water bodies are located in prime areas of the city and beneficiaries of privatisation of these are largely hoteliers and builders, as it is not an environmentally progressive purpose but more a manipulation of the policy with profit motive
- The constitution of the Lake Development Authority (Respondent) expressly prohibits privatising these public water bodies against the wider public interest
PIL has sought redress from the Honorable High Court by way of issue of writ or order in the nature of Mandamus repealing the ‘Lease Deeds’ executed by Respondent (the LDA) in favour of the beneficiary respondents (to whom the lakes were leased – Respondents 14, 15 and 16) and requested the Court to direct the Government of Karnataka (as first Respondent) to ensure full compliance with the law and policies relating to protection and conservation of lakes/tanks/wetlands.
With the privatisation approach for development and management of lakes not proving to be popular, and considering the serious protests by the public and the pending Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court of Karnataka seeking redress, the Government of Karnataka has now decided to make amends with a paradigm shift in its approach by declaring that the State Government would undertake, through its agencies such as the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), BBMP and Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA), the rejuvenation works of 27 lakes in the Phase I by allocating finances to the extent of Rs 1.5–2 crores (US$375,000 to 500,000) per lake which would involve:
- Desilting of the lake bed
- Diversion of sewage and other processes
- Free access to the public
- Discontinue the policy of privatisation of lakes and
- Revisit the allotments already made to private parties in view of reported misuse of the lake property by encroachment for private gains
Vallisneria spiralis or tapegrass
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- New lease of life for 27 lakes
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