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Kolleru Lake is the largest freshwater lake and is located in Andhra Pradesh. Kolleru is located between Krishna and Godavari delta and covers an area of 308 km².  The lake serves as a natural flood-balancing reservoir for these two rivers. The lake is fed directly by water from the seasonal Budameru and Tammileru streams, and is connected to the Krishna and Godavari systems by over 68 inflowing drains and channels. It serves as a habitat for migratory birds. It supports the livelihood of fishermen and riparian population in the area. The lake was notified as a wildlife sanctuary in November 1999 under India's Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, and designated a wetland of international importance in November 2002 under the international Ramsar Convention.

Thousands of fish tanks were dug up inside the wetland converting the lake into a mere drain. Apart from this the farmers had converted the land use pattern of the lake. This had a lot of impact in terms of pollution leading to even difficulty in getting drinking water for the local people. The total area of the lake converted to aquaculture ponds accounts for 99.73km2 in 2004in comparison to 29.95km2 in 1967. The area under agricultural practice in the wetland also increased from 8.40 km2 in 1967 to 16.62km2 in 2004. Sewage inflow from the towns of Eluru, Gudivada and even Vijayawada and industrial effluents, pesticides and fertilizers from the Krishna-Godavari delta region contaminate the lake. Eleven major industries release about 7.2 million litres of effluents into the lake every day.

In 1982, the Andhra Pradesh government set up the Kolleru Lake Development Committee (KLDC), which had set up a Rs 300-crore master plan for Kolleru. It also called for the creation of a Kolleru lake development authority to check encroachments, regulate and monitor pollution, clear the lake of weeds and use it as compost and raw material to produce biogas. Dr. T. Patanjali Sastry, President, Environment Centre, Danavaipeta, Rajahmundry moved the High Court to protect the ecosystem of the Kolleru lake. Later on the fishermen association also filed another PIL claiming that the ecosystem was degraded not due to the fish tanks but due to sewage coming out from the industries and the residential areas. The court gave preference to the ecology of the lake first. In 2006, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), appointed by the Supreme Court directed the state to remove all sorts of encroachment including the fish tanks. This caused a huge hue and cry among the fishermen community. The government is undertaking many projects to restore back the glory of the lake.

Down to earth

The broken mirror

KOLLERU lake is no ordinary wetland. Located in Andhra Pradesh, it is one of the country's largest freshwater lakes and a bird sanctuary, hosting 193 species of birds and a variety of flora and fauna, including medicinal plants.


Research papers:

Implementing Sustainable Development in the Lake Kolleru, India

Remote sensing application to study the aquaculture dynamics in Kolleru Lake, India

Change detection studies in and around Kolleru Lake using high-resolution data

Pollution through Aqua Culture


Lake Kolleru : Environmental Status (Past and Present). 2003. M.K. Durga Prasad (ed.) Y. Anjaneyulu (ed.). BS Publications. 236p.

  1998: Writ petition filed by Dr. T. Patanjali Sastry, President, Environment Centre, Danavaipeta,Rajahmundry, in the High Court declaring the action of the respondents in not stopping the discharge of effluents from the industries that have come up in the vicinity of Kolleru lake and in permitting the construction of houses and roads in the catchment area of the lake and to direct the respondents to take appropriate steps to restore the lake to its pristine glory as before.

1999: Writ petitions filed by the Kolleru Fishermen and Small-Scale Farmers Association and other organizations in High Court, complaining that the Government was not taking steps to stop pollution of the lake due to discharge of effluents from industrial units and untreated drainage from municipalities. They also said that the ecological imbalance of the lake is not due to fish tanks, but it was only due to the neglect of the lake by the Government and failure to have a check on the pollution caused by several industries and the municipal corporations.

Government issued a notification constituting Kolleru Wild Life Sanctuary and defining boundaries and margins. Because of the enforcement of GO Ms No 120 through which the State government declared the lake a wildlife sanctuary, the rights of nearly two lakh people, who are basically fishermen, came at stake. By doing this, the government had made it clear that the right of the local fishermen to do fishing by traditional methods is not taken away, but aquaculture in the form of any tank is prohibited. Notice issued of demolition of all fish tanks in the area would commence from April 20, 2006.

2001: High Court dismissed the writ petition of 1999 saying that wet eco system cannot be exploited to the detriment of people at large for temporary gains. The Bench dealt with the contention that the notification was ultra vires, and said that the Government had the powers to issue the notification. The Bench directed the Government to adhere to the standards laid down by the Ministry of Environment regarding the lakes and effluents. And all writ petitions were disposed of.

March 2002: The Kolleru Fishermen Cooperative Society moved to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Amnesty International, seeking to protect the livelihood of nearly two lakh people in the Plus Five contour of Kolleru lake.

The Kolleru Fishermen Cooperative Society moved to challenge the validity of the GO Ms No 120 in Supreme Court by seeking to protect the people's right to life in the area. The ground was being prepared to file a writ petition in the Supreme Court, alleging that the Government, emboldened by the ruling by the High Court in defence of the need for wildlife sanctuary in the lake, was trying to enforce the GO Ms No 120 without having any forethought on the implications of evicting the local people at the cost of their right to life.

Sept 2005: Restoration work for the lake started. Mr. Lav Agarwal in his capacity as Collector and District Magistrate and his team sustained the pain and endurance of adamant Kolleru people.

Nov 2005: Aqua farmers and local people staged a rasta roko and threatened to commit mass suicide if their tanks were demolished. The district administrator took serious action against the agitators.

Nov 2005: A regulator will be constructed at a cost of Rs.30 crores on Upputeru at the mouth of Kolleru to provide the straight cut for the lake water to flow into the sea. The State Government will seek Rs.600 crores loan from the World Bank and other external sources for rehabilitation of the lake to its old glory with the removal of encroachments including aqua tanks up to the 10 ft. contour level.

2005: Shri Pranay Waghray approached the Supreme Court for implementation of HC judgment.

2006: The Central Empowered Committee (CEC), appointed by the Supreme Court to monitor environmental issues in the country, has directed the state government to remove all the encroachments on Kolleru Lake. About 31,000 acres of fish ponds had been removed from the lake.

Feb 2006: Over 30 big leaseholders each owning fishponds of more than 100 acres gave separate written undertakings to the Krishna District Administration that they would vacate the lake before March 3.

March 2006: Kolleru Fishermen Cooperative Society challenged the validity in Supreme Court by seeking to protect the people's right to life in the area. He said that the government is following the Supreme Court orders without having any forethought on the implications of evicting the local people at the cost of their right to life.

June 2006: Lok Satta, a NGO said that the destruction of fish tanks in the Kolleru lake area could not bring back the past glory of the lake. It said that the massive operation to bring down these tanks would rob thousands of people of their livelihoods. It said industrial effluents and municipal sewage, and not fish tanks, were the major sources of pollution of the lake. Lok Satta has taken up the issue of Kolleru to ensure that the people receive a fair compensation and relief & rehabilitation package.

Dec 2006: The state government sanctioned Rs 15 crores for rehabilitation of the fishermen affected by the cleaning of the lake.

2007: The forest department, which started work on demarcating the area of the sanctuary, is hamstrung because of the non-cooperation of the revenue officials. The forest officials had to stop work in some pockets following opposition and threat from tank owners. The main opposition party, Telugu Desam, is backing the tank owners in some stretches and even took out a rally in Akivedu demanding a stop to demarcation work.

Feb 2008: Eco-tourism project of the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) for Kolleru lake becomes a reality, with the corporation launching Rs. 1.5 Cr for the project.

June 2008: Kolleru lake to be developed at a cost of nearly Rs 860 crore over five years as the international NGO, Wetland International South Asia, has prepared proposals at the behest of the state government. Of the total cost proposed for development, Rs 500 crore has been allocated for water management works.
Sept 2008: Kolleru lake to be transformed into a bird watching with the State Government taking up a major project to develop it as an eco-tourism destination. The project is a Rs.9-crore project sanctioned by the Union Government commences in November and was scheduled to be completed in 18 months.

Jan 2009: The state government is putting pressure on the forest department to finalize a proposal to reduce the sanctuary area of famous Kolleru Lake from the present plus five to three contour levels.

April 2009: Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N Chandrababu Naidu said that the Lake would be regularized and the surplus land from the lake will be distributed to the poor farmers.

September 2009: The State Government has taken the decision to protect the lake up to contour-3


H.No. 5-10-180/A & A1 Band Lanes
Hill Fort Road, Near Ayakar Bhavan. Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh 500 004
Ph : 91-40-2323 1818 / 2323 2829/ 2323 3637
Web page: http://www.loksatta.org

Contact person:
Mr Prakash Balwani
Ph: 91-40-3350778,3350790,3351019
Mob: 9826085744
Email : prakashbalwani@hotmail.com

Centre for Environment
86-4-16/1, Manthena Gardens, Rajahmundray – 3
Mobile: +91-94407-03440
E mail: centreenvironment@yahoo.com
Contact: Dr. T. Patanjali Shastry



Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History,
Deccan Regional Station,
Hyderabad 500017, India
Email: chiranjibipattanaik@gmail.com

Contact person:
Dr.Chiranjibi Pattanaik