Kolkata's doomed lakes
persistent attempts by a handful of local activists to save the lakes in Kolkata, the
waterbodies are in danger. Vikramgarh jheel (VJ) and Rabindra Sarobar (RS) are two prime
examples of this appalling plight.
Consider this. In Srinagar, the official residence of former Chief Minister Farooq
Abdullah and Director General of Police, along that are the illegal constructions,
encroaching the specified green belt area around Dal lake.
These startling revelations were made when a high level probe on the encroachment of
land around Dal was announced by the newly-elected government. The three concerned
departments viz., Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, Srinagar Municipality (SM)
and Tourism department were ordered to submit reports within 20 days. Ironically now all
of them deny responsibility. Kamini Jaiswal, a Delhi-based advocate and partner in the
Save Dal campaign said, "Everything was done under their nose and now
they are making a desperate bid to save themselves." "This is just a tip of the
iceberg", she says.
Will this probe help in reviving the Dal lake or will it prove to be another political
VJ spanning over seven acres is the vested property of government of West Bengal. Thus,
inviting an unrestricted disposal of waste by Kolkata municipal corporation (KMC).
Unabated encroachments by locals is another problem. Located between the densely populated
areas of Jadavpur and Tollygunge, the lake is a rich repository of diverse biodiversity.
But only the fisheries department appears to be concerned about its state.
On the other hand RS has just been elevated to the status of a national lake. So, under
the National Lakes Conservation Plan funds (Rs 6.96 crore sanctioned) have started flowing
in. The Kolkata Improvement Trust (KIT) responsible for protecting RS has used these funds
in the construction of a four-kilometre concrete embankment along the lake, which is being
increasingly used as a bathing ghat.
According to ecological experts it is a thoughtless move, as it has reduced the
catchment, while negatively affecting the rich aquatic life. The work was done without the
approval of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Pollute and go to jail for SIX years
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board is sounding stricter. "Under section 24 and
43 of the Water Act, anyone found polluting water resources will be liable for fine and
imprisonment extending upto maximum six years", says the Board. A positive trend but
can it be sustained? Because the most
prominent culprits in Chennai includes, the municipal corporation as well.
DMRCs limited vision
During the metros construction phase, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation came up with a
plan to divert the extracted water from flowing into Yammuna and, this being wasted.
Everyday 20 lakh litres (l) of water was diverted through 1.5 long pipeline. This was done
without taking into account the water holding capacity of the ponds in Kamla Nehru Ridge.
As a result, within three weeks water started overflowing into Yammuna. The rest (about
1,600 l) was send to DJBs Chandrawal water treatment plant for distribution.
Ironically, DJB was completely unaware of it.
A sincere effort that required a more integrated planning.
Squatters or owners?
of ponds invites trouble. Thats the experience of villagers from Chitrakoot and
Hamirpur districts of Uttar Pradesh. Their choices are limited. Either give away their
homes or pay for its demolition. This dilemma has arisen due to the eviction notices
issued by various district administrations.
Interestingly, one year after the Supreme Court (SC)directives issued (July 25, 2001)
on the Hinch Lal Tiwari vs Kamla Devi case, the government has suddenly spurred into
action. The SC order removal of squatters from 15 biswas of pond land in Ugapur village,
Asnao taluka in Sant Ravidas district. However, the government is now using it to evict
encroachers in other parts of the state as well, with no rehabilitation plan.
People are getting perturbed with the manner in which these orders are being executed.
For instance, the state sponsored encroachments like a cluster of shops on the banks of
Koti pond in Karwi, Chitrakoot remain untouched. Reason? "These are owned by the
state and hence for public use. So, the order does not apply", clarified a local
Restoring Bis Hazari
Efforts to restore the Bis Hazari lake located within the buffer zone of Nepals
oldest Royal Chitawan National Park (RCNP) have commenced. Due to years of neglect and
frequent flooding in the surrounding gorges, this wall around the lake is in a shambles.
The lake area has also reduced considerably. "This year several animals died in the
lake waters due to the weeds that cover it completely", said K Banskota, chief of
Based on the deliberations held on World Environment Day, 2002, conservation plans were
drawn by the concerned authorities. Execution is being entrusted to Buffer Zone Area
Management Council, RCNP. The authorities are working towards reviving the Bis Hazari -
well known for providing winter home to about 400 different bird species.