Null and Void?
The judiciary may have come to the rescue of
the decaying urban lakes, but implementation of their orders still remains primarily in
the hands of executive. And, this is proving to be disastrous. Chandola Lake in Ahmedabad,
Gujarat and Himayat Sagar in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh are clear indicators.
Court orders bypassed
In Chandola, the state government partially executed the High Court's (HC)order, by
filling up the lake with Narmada water. But this was done without removing the
encroachments that had also been specifically maintained in the order. Beginning on
September 3, water was released after desilting the Kharicut canal. Within ten days, the
lake filled up and about 2,000 houses were submerged and nine people were killed, most of
them were children.
The incident puts a question mark on the ability of
the executive to protect lakes, a responsibility given by the HC. The opinion of the
experts on the issue varies. While, Mayur Pandya, member of the advisory committee to HC
says,"It does not raise any serious doubts, atleast they have started working."
Frederick Smeatack (Jr), litigant fighting for saving lakes in Uttranchal, holds the civil
society responsible. "It happened and will continue to happen, if people decide to be
mute spectators,"he says. But now the issue is what can be done? Removal of
encroachments is a politically sensitive matter, will the state take a rational decision
on this front?
In Hyderabad, the authorities went a step a further. The government order (GOMS No 111)
dated March 8, 1996, prohibiting the setting up of polluting industries, hotels,
residential colonies or other establishments within a radius of ten kilo meters of Himayat
Sagar and Osman Sagar was grossly violated. As a result, about 60,000 unauthorised plots
have cropped up in this region covering an area of 5,000 acres, disturbing the entire
A success story?
The Delhi Government's Flood and Irrigation
Department (FID) claims to have collected 200 million gallons of rainwater by reviving
storm drains and ponds in rural Delhi this year. A feat its counterparts in urban areas
are unable to replicate.
In last three years, without involving the local
people, the FID has desilted and deepened about 70 ponds used primarily for irrigation.
"These efforts have created a storage capacity of about 170 million gallons of
rainwater annually," says FID. A proposal to develop another 40 ponds is in the
pipeline. "The remaining rural waterbodies, nearly 80 of them have turned into toxic
pools and would be taken up once Municipal Corporation of Delhi diverts the waste water
into out flowing drains,"informs FID.
The success claimed by FID has been questioned.
"If FID has done this work, why don't they submit an affidavit before the
court?," inquires V K Jain, who is fighting for the protection of Delhi's waterbodies
since the past two years.
These facts began surfacing, as the
government gave a green signal for the construction of proposed Shamshabad international
airport, where half of the area falls within the 'prohibited' zone. The government has
found a way out, by planning to bring in an amendment to reduce the radial distance from
ten to five km.
On the other hand, the Hyderabad Meteropolitian
Water Supply and Sewerage Board plans to bring river Krishna's water to solve city's water
problem. Is it viable? SVUniversity's retired professor MVNayudu, questions,"For
bringing 40 million gallons in a day (MGD) Krishna water the government will spend Rs
1,000 crores. If these lakes dry up, the state will lose 45 MGD water. So, why not stop
this decay by just shifting the proposed airport project 15 to 20 km further south?"
The flouride menace
contaminated water from within the complex of deflouridation plant.
In Rajasthan, flouride contamination in groundwater
has reached alarming proportions. In India, the state tops the list, with 40 per cent of
its water resources contaminated with excess flouride. Villagers who have no other
option but to consume this water suffer from yellow, cracked teeth, joint pains, crippled
limbs and fast aging process.
In October, Shiv Charan Rawat, president, Sardar
Patel Yuva Gramin Vikas Sansthan, a Khuri Kalan village-based NGO, Dausa, approached CSE
for help, as the menace has gripped 46 per cent of the villages in the district. State
negligence has forced few families of the village to consume contaminated water from
within the complex of a defunct defloridation plant. A CSE staffer visited seven villages
in Dausa and Sikarai block to take stock of the situation, and came up with some shocking
The region's groundwater reserves are depleting
and, low rainfall this year has worsened the situation, further. High concentration of
flouride, chloride, total hardness and alkalinity in ground water is found - resulting in
a loss of soil fertility. A villager pointed out that, "the water sources near the
talabs (pond) yield 'sweet' water than those at a distance, due to sustained
recharging." A fact supported by a officialstudy in Dausa. It revealed that the
technique of rainwater harvesting reduce the flouride concentration upto a level.
Balisana, a village in Patan district, Gujarat, substantiate these finding (
See: Catch Water, February 2002).