ENVIS Technical Report: 55,  May 2013
Conservation of Bellandur Wetlands: Obligation of Decision makers to Ensure Intergenerational Equity
Ramachandra T.V.           Bharath H Aithal            Vinay S            Aamir Amin Lone
Energy and Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore – 560012, India.
*Corresponding author: cestvr@ces.iisc.ernet.in
Executive Summary

Bellandur lake catchment is located between 77° 35´ west and 77° 45´ east and latitude 12° 50´ south and 13° 00´ north (The Survey of India topographic map 57 H/9, scale: 1:50,000). The overall catchment area is about 287.33 sq. km with a water spread area of 361 ha. The terrain of the region is relatively flat and sloping towards south of Bangalore city. Relative slope of the region is found to be very gentle to gentle slope. The relative contour height is 930 m above mean sea level and the lowest is 880 m. The height is found to be 870 m above mean sea level near the tank. The drainage pattern is dendrite type and is characterized by gneiss and gneiss granite rocks. This water body has been a lifeline sustaining the livelihood of settlements in the catchment and command areas. Agriculture (rice and vegetables) practiced since many centuries in the downstream continues even today. Three main streams join the tank, which form the entire watershed. Three chain of lakes in the upstream joins Bellandur lake with a catchment area of about 148 square kilometres (14979 Hectares) and overflow of this lake gets into Varthurlake and from where it flows down the plateau and joins Pinakini river basin.

One of the streams originates at the northern part of the region, Jayamahal and known as eastern stream. Another stream originates from the central part of the city, Krishna Raja Market and covers the central part of the region before joining the tank and is called the central stream. Another stream commands southwestern part of the region called the western stream. Further, before the confluence with Bellandur Tank, all the streams come across two to three tanks. The rainfall data is available for the last 100 to 110 years. Rainfall varies from 725.5 mm to 844.8 mm. The district receives 51 % of the total annual rainfall in the southwest monsoon period, i.e. June to September. The average annual rainfall in the catchment was 859 mm in 1999. April is usually the hottest month with the mean daily maximum and minimum temperature of 33.4° C and 21.2° C respectively. December is generally the coolest month with the mean daily maximum and minimum temperature of 25° C and 15.3° C respectively. The temperature drops down to 8° C during January nights. Relative humidity is high from June to October (80 to 85 %). Thereafter, it decreases and from February to April becomes 25 to 35%. The relative humidity in the morning is higher than in the evening, giving rise to the formation of fog.

Unplanned rapid urbanisation during post 2000 witnessed large scale conversion of watershed area of the lake to residential and commercial layouts. This has altered the hydrological regime and enhanced the silt movement in the catchment. Declining vegetation cover has lowered water yield in the catchment, affecting the groundwater recharge. Alterations in ecological integrity is evident from reduced water yield, flash floods, contaminated water, obnoxious odour, copious growth of invasive floating macrophytes,  disappearance of native fish species, breeding ground for mosquito and other disease vectors,  etc. A major portion of untreated city sewage (500+ million liters per day) is let into the lake, beyond the neutralizing ability of the lake, which has hampered the ecological functioning of the lake.

Significance of wetlands: Wetlands are lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.  Wetlands are the most productive and biologically diverse but very fragile ecosystems. They function as kidneys of landscape due to remediation of contaminants (which include nutrients, heavy metals, etc.). These fragile ecosystems are vulnerable to even small changes in their biotic and abiotic factors. In recent years, there has been concern over the continuous degradation of wetlands due to unplanned developmental activities (Ramachandra, 2002).

Policy and legislative measures for Wetlands conservation in India are:

  • The Indian Forest Act - 1927
  • Forest (Conservation Act) - 1980
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act - 1972
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pol1ution)Act - 1974
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act - 1977
  • Environmental (Protection) Act - 1986
  • Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act - 1991
  • National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and I Development - 1992
  • National Policy And Macro level Action Strategy on Biodiversity-1999
  • Biological Diversity Act, 2002, areas rich in biodiversity, cultural importance, etc.
  • Wetlands (Conservation and Management) rules 2010, Government of India

The proposed plan to set up SEZ by KIADB needs to be stopped and wetland to be restored considering

Activities Norms
Location of the project (SEZ by Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB)) in the valley zone This is contrary to sustainable development as the natural resources (lake, wetlands) get affected due to this decision. Eventually this kills the lake. This reflects the ignorance of the administrative machinery on the importance of ecosystems and the need to protect valley zones
The proposed activity is in valley zone To be protected considering ecological function
And are ‘NO DEVELOPMENT ZONES’ as per CDP 2005, 2015
Location of SEZ in flood prone zone of the lake and in wetland - 30 m buffer zone of the water body is to be no development zone In case of water bodies a 30.0 m buffer of ‘no development zone’ is to be maintained
around the lake (as per revenue records)
  • As per BDA, RMP 2015
  • section 17 of KTCP Act, 1961 and sec 32 of BDA Act, 1976
  • Wetlands (Conservation and Management) rules 2010, Government of India
Alterations in topography Adjacent localities would be vulnerable to floods
Removal of rajakaluve (storm water drain)  and gradual encroachment of rajakaluve as well as  lake bed Removal of lake connectivity enhances the episodes of flooding and associated disasters
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Civil appeal number 1132/2011 at SLP (C) 3109/2011 on January 28,2011 has ex-pressed concern regarding encroachment of common property resources, more particularly lakes and it has directed the state governments for removal of encroachments on all community lands.
Eviction of encroachment: Need to be evicted as per Karnataka Public Premises (eviction of unauthorised occupants) 1974 and the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964.
The proposed action by KIADB to set up SEZ violates Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka’s verdict to protect, conserve, rehabilitate and wisely use lakes and their watersheds in Bangalore all lakes in Karnataka and their canal networks (about 38,000) High Court of Karnataka (WP No. 817/2008)
  • Protects lakes across Karnataka,
  • Prohibits dumping of Garbage and Sewage  in Lakes
  • Lake area to be surveyed and fenced and declare a no development zonearound lakes
  • Encroachments to be removed.
  • Forest department to plant trees  in consultation with experts in lakesurroundings and in the watershed region
  • Member Secretary of state legal services authority to monitor       implementation of the above in coordination with Revenue and Forest Departments.
  • Also set up district lake protection committees
Additional 10000 to 14000 vehicles Increases traffic bottleneck in the region and air  pollution (with the increase in density of vehicles)
Increase in vehicular traffic and enhanced pollutants Traffic congestion (due to additional vehicle movement). The density of traffic would increase, the road’s current level of service (LOS) is under category C , the increase in vehicles upto 14000+ would worsen the  traffic condition with LOS under category F. enhanced levels of vehicular pollutants; likely increase in respiratory diseases;
Water shortage
The estimate shows that SEZ requires 4587 Kilo Liters per day (4.58 MLD – Million liters per day)
Bangalore is already experiencing severe water shortages as water yield in rivers (Cauvery, etc.) has come down due to large scale land cover changes. Neither Cauvery, T G Halli nor groundwater can sustain Bangalore’s growing water demand.BWSSB has not given  NOC and has indicated inability to supply such huge quantity of water on regular basis.
Pathetic water scenario and insufficient drinking water in Bangalore At the 4% population growth rate of Bangalore over the past 50 years, the current population of Bangalore is 8.5 million (2011). Water supply from Hessarghatta has dried, Tippegondahanally is drying up, the only reliable water supply to Bangalore is from Cauvery with a gross of 1,410 million liters a day (MLD). There is no way of increasing the drawal from Cauvery as the allocation by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal for the entire urban and rural population in Cauvery Basin in Karnataka is only 8.75 TMC ft (one thousand million cubic – TMC ft equals 78 MLD), Bangalore city is already drawing more water—1,400 MLD equals 18 TMC—than the allocation for the entire rural and urban population in Cauvery basin.

Ecological and Environmental Implications:

  • Land use change: Conversion of watershed area especially valley regions of the lake to paved surfaces would alter the hydrological regime.
  • Loss of Drainage Network: Removal of drain (Rajakaluve) and reducing the width of the drain would flood the surrounding residential as  the interconnectivities among lakes are lost and there are no mechanisms for the excessive storm water to drain and thus the water stagnates flooding in the surroundings.
  • Alteration in landscape topography: This activity alters the integrity of the region affecting the lake catchment. This would also have serious implications on the storm water flow in the catchment.
    The dumping of construction waste along the lakebed  and lake has altered the natural topography thus rendering the storm water runoff to take a new course that might get into the existing residential areas. Such alteration of topography would not be geologically stable apart from causing soil erosion and lead to siltation in the lake.
  • Loss of Shoreline: The loss of shoreline along the lakebed results in the habitat destruction for most of the shoreline birds that wade in this region. Some of the shoreline wading birds like the Stilts, Sandpipers; etc will be devoid of their habitat forcing them to move out such disturbed habitats. It was also apparent from the field investigations that with the illogical land filling and dumping taking place in the Bellandur lakebed, the shoreline are gobbled up by these activities.
  • Loss of livelihood: Local people are dependent on the wetlands for fodder, fish etc. estimate shows that wetlands provide goods and services worth Rs 10500 per hectare per day (Ramachandra et al., 2005).

Decision makers need to learn from the similar historical blunder of plundering ecosystems as in the case of Black Swan event (http://blackswanevents.org/?page_id=26) of evacuating half of the city in 10 years due to water scarcity, contaminated water, etc. or abandoning of FatehpurSikhri and fading out of AdilShahi’sBijapur, or ecological disaster at Easter Island or Vijayanagara empire

It is the responsibility of Bangalore citizens (for intergenerational equity, sustenance of natural resources and to prevent human-made disasters such as floods, etc.) to stall the irrational conversion of land in the name of development  and restrict the decision makers taking the system (ecosystem including humans) for granted as in the case of Bellandur wetlands by KIADB.

Keywords: Wetlands, Urbanisation, wetlands, intergenerational equity, Bellandur

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