Protection, Conservation, Eco-Restoration and management of tanks/ lakes as Wetland habitats – Challenges and Mitigative strategies in the present scenario of the Bangalore metropolis


Dept. of Zoology & Biotechnology, BHS First Grade College, Jayanagar IV th Block, Bangalore -560 011.
Ph 080 26548890

Society for Wildlife and Awareness of Nature (SWAN), the Nature Club of the College.

Res: # 159, ‘Gopalakrupa', 3 rd Main , CKA, BSK 3 rd Stage, 3 rd Phase, Bangalore – 560 085;
Ph: 080 26693087.


    In the context of having our wetland habitats as functioning ecological resources, it becomes extremely important to review what has been happening to them and as to where their status is headed. The present times have definitely seen many kinds of critical eco-environmental threats facing the wetland habitats.

    In the present scenario concerning an expanding metropolis like Bangalore, bursting with development and the addition of infrastructure, the wetland values in recreational terms. Their positive role as microclimate enhancers is also very significant. It is also felt that they possibly have an important role in stabilising the local climatic fluctuations uniquely experienced by this large metropolis in view of its altitude of ? 980 MSL and its topography. Further, the positive and negative health impacts linked to this altitudinal parameter is already familiar to Bangaloreans.

    The above contextual background naturally brings in a number of conflicting situations. A wetland habitat with a natural biodiversity status, if existing (!), needs to be weighed against the threats of manmade disturbances, habitat destruction and others. Further it seems imperative that even when any measures attempted at ecorestoration or improvements towards these habitats are taken, their impacts also need to be viewed from time to time to realise if they have ecologically improved and at the same time are also serving positive eco-utilitarian needs for the general public.

    Keeping the above background as the base situation, each of the aspects viz., protection, conservation, eco-restoration and management (or mismanagement) efforts are discussed. The time frame for the scenario is drawn starting from around just the pre 1970’s to the present. The periods of normal/ control, less critical, critical, realisation phase, restoration efforts and the conflicting situations (recent past, existing and possible future pooled together), are considered.

    Some case observations to throw light on the conflict situations being locally faced (ex., Gottigere, Madivala and Hebbal lakes) are presented. To stress on this area along with the need to draw the attention and concern of the ecoliterate citizens, old and young, is the main focus of this paper.

    The role of libraries of any institution in stimulating nature related learning experiences has been examined and indicated to be very vital. Further, the role of awareness and some action oriented involvements from the ecoliterate, young citizens starting with school and college students, enthused by the ecoliterates and other stake holders especially general public has been indicated to be very critical. A proactive role for libraries has also been indicated to be the starting block. In the Indian context presently, it is felt that there is a strong need to exercise the intellectual democratic powers and the political democratic powers in a balanced manner as the present world seeks to strike a normally asymmetric balance between ecology and development. The asymmetric balance at present seems to be rather heavily skewed in favour of political democracy.;

    The urgency of the matter is focused upon so that strong and forceful attempts are made to save the ITBT city’s remaining wetland resources; at least, as relics of ecologically managed, biodiverse, public utility resources and as last of the lung spaces to enable the Bangalore Metropolis to avoid a suffocating death.


    The methodology has drawn on past information derived from earlier works inclusive of those of the author and secondary data and information, drawn from different sources. Observations by the author concerning the periods mentioned above have been put forward. Some data using the questionnaire mode regarding awareness levels regarding wetlands among students from the pre-university and undergraduate levels have also been made use of to stress on their possible roles in strengthening the efforts of protection and conservation of wetland habitats. The importance of environmental awareness at various levels; the possibilities from eco-oriented proactive libraries in any of the institutions and the possible roles of Ecoliterate citizens in the present scenario of threats to wetland habitats has been brought out. This is especially significant wherein severe challenges are faced within striking a balance between ecological conservation versus development in light of a burgeoning metropolis like Bangalore. Some related suggestions have also been collated at the end of the paper.

Results and discussion

    An overview of the developments regarding tanks in and around Bangalore is provided in Table – I. By the mid 1980s, the tanks began to be referred to as wetlands, based on the definition/ description provided at the Ramsar wetland convention, 1971, at Iran. Going by ideal principle of ‘Practice and Preach‘ and ‘Acting locally while thinking Globally’, the efforts towards a movement to protect and conserve wetland habitats, was initiated and given a foundation through the Asian Midwinter Waterfowl Census carried out, beginning from 1988 by voluntary efforts of the ‘Birdwatcher’s Field Club of Bangalore’ for Bangalore and some adjacent regions. This later spread to other regions of Karnataka. Concerted efforts went on till 1995 and continue to date, possibly at personal levels. Of course many institutions, organisations, NGOs, naturalist individuals have been at work in the field to cater to varied interests.

Table 1: Chronological summary of wetland status related events in and around Bangalore


App. Time scale

Major perceptible utilities, events/, concepts etc.

Negative aspects

Positive aspects







Pre and till about 1970

Normal resource usages: irrigation, fishing, domestic utilities, non urban recreation, uncontrolled silt/ clay removal, possibly naturally stable wetland sites.

Very important : many lake waters possibly potable.
Bangalore emerging as the fastest growing Asian city.

Beginning of the fast development phase.

Increasing urban pressures.

Increase in water pollution. Sewage/waste entry into lakes.

Still some lakes were being used as drinking water sources





Less critical





1970 till the 1980s

Most normal uses of the earlier period continued to be experienced.

Concept of lakes being stocking places for urban water wastes as put forward by Govt. agencies.

Opposition to existence of lakes as they were characterised of being cesspools, health hazards (eg. malaria), etc.

Govt. agencies felt that lakes need to be drained off for unclear reasons!


Lack of ecological understanding.


Start of rapid expansion of urban growth, resultant in greater pollution loads and build up of aquatic weeds.


Increasing overall urban pressures.

Some ecologists and bird/ nature enthusiasts sensed threats to the very existence and conservation of waterbodies.


Very few lakes were possibly potable water sources.




Most of the above concepts continued to be repeated at most forums, meetings etc., by govt. agencies.

Concepts of ecological and hydrological use of waterbodies started to be expressed from some quarters.

Previous pressures severe and a very rapid urban area spread (eg., layouts) & impacts.

Usage for irrigation <s.

Sewage loads + pollution and > d water hyacinth cover.

Ideas regarding +ve use for waterbodies put forth.


Ideas for storing treated water in tanks were beginning to be expressed.






Realisation phase


This can also be considered as a ‘wetland concept turnover phase' particularly for Bangalore city.

Possibly this can be an example for other places.











1985 till about 1995

Many important events occurred.
Sri. N. Lakshman Rau report 1986. ---- à

BWFCB report on ‘survey of irrigation tanks as wetland habitats' 1989 completed. The term Wetlands gets introduced.

Concept of tanks as multiple utility and ecologically vital resources gains ground.

Crucial phase of protection of tanks (wetland habitats) begins; Govt.vests powers with the forest Dept.

Protection efforts begin (fencing), Nurseries, foreshore planting, call for voluntary efforts including some model efforts etc., begin .

Very active period – many meetings, seminars, workshops, studies, presentations, etc. - à lead to many changed positive views.





Status : of the > 250 tanks left as per records;

Only 81 left;

46 are disused



The negative influences of the previous period continue.

Ideas of positive uses for waterbodies get strengthened.


Large plans like NLCP drawn up based on wetland survey data/ experiences and posed to MoEF.


Concept of eco-use of wetland veg'n; treated water storage in lakes gains ground.


Wetlands get some due protection under the Forest department; Ideas of wetlands as recreation spots, support for bird life, etc., make a beginning.






Table – I cont'd



Restoration efforts






1995 0nwards

The ‘Energy and Wetllands Research Group, of CES, IISc, gets started.
Efforts made to bring in lot of funds for wetland eco-restoration efforts.

Govt. proposes for large scale:
Individual tank/ lake efforts; individual treatment plants for each tank.

People and private involvement is called for.
Large scale eco-restoration efforts by the Govt., undertaken : Eg., Madivala, Agaram and Hebbal,lakes initially.






No significant changes and most influences as seen in the previous period were observed to continue.

Formation of Lake protection committees (LPC's) initiated in the previous period gets further strengthened?

Protection efforts continued.

A ten year phase (1986-95) of the annual midwinter waterfowl censuses and status surveys by the BWFCB is completed (1995 report).

Conflicting situations Since around early 2000 onwards Many more lakes viz., Sankey, Nagavara, Ulsoor, Lalbagh, Yediyur, K.R. Puram and many others are also brought in for ecorestoration.

Many newer issues in the light of massive increase in office spaces, IT and now BT work spaces or corridors and resultant addition of infrastructure in massive terms viz., BMIC, roads within and outside the city, new Airport and their impact on open spaces, wetlands, etc., are emerging day by day – the number and complexities increasing in rapid terms.

No efforts to biomonitor and hence loss as far as drawing up best ideas of eco-management.

No concerted efforts at awareness creation.

Many questions arise? Many instances of fish deaths; why?
How to solve recurring problems?
When and what has been learnt as a positive experience?
Where is the new approach of excessive privatisation headed to? Can areas of eco-learning for the young and old (all target groups) and natural public resources be privatised?

Some gains from eco-restoration efforts are gained. However the measured outcome in an ecological sense is yet to be realised. Are the emerging new challenges themselves a positive outcome to come forth with new solutions to wetland ecologists?

Source : Collated from author’s earlier works, experiences and those from various other accessible works over time during the period considered above.



    Only the major conflict situations, present ecological scenario or the present public utility status regarding the wetlands for a few lakes is intended to be highlighted. The intention is to stimulate the ecoliterate citizens to think of effective and if possible ecologically sound steps to save, conserve and manage our wetland resources locally. It is felt that ways and means to be more proactive in the efforts in the present scenario is very important. If not done, vital ecological damages can be foreseen in the future.

Gottigere lake

    This is a small lake located on the Bannerghatta road with a waterspread area of about 14.98 ha. It forms a part of the South Pennar River basin. It is at present an existing tank and is predominantly seasonal in limnological terms.

    The wetland link issue: As a part of the peripheral road, there is a small area of the road to be linked across the Bangalore – Bannerghatta road. This needs to pass (1) around or (2) over and across the Gottigere lake in order to be completed. The expressway is to be about 75 m wide. The lake has a roughly North – South lengthwise and an almost East – West breadth wise (bund ) orientation. The Highcourt in 1999 had by its order directed not to lay any road bisecting the tank or disturbing the inflow of water into the tank but had however indicated that a road passing over (across) the lake could be raised on pillars by digging the tank bed if necessary. However the alternative of the road passing skirting the tank was a possibility by allowing for design for the seasonal inflow of water from the catchment area or watershed. After calling for objections from the public without indicating any of the ecological implications the Govt. passed an order that the road be built over the tank on pillars. This is now the major and critical issue of an ecological conflict situation of wetland conservation vis-à-vis development though ecological alternatives are still possible. The fact is that given the traffic scenario of the Bangalore Metropolis, this peripheral ring road - a 75 m expressway cannot be avoided

    The Ecological impact: If this road passes over the lake, it would cover almost 2/3rds of the lake surface area. In the lean months, the entire water surface area would get covered. The major disturbances as far as this wetland being ecologically functional can be the following:

 •  Such a wide road over pillars is unscientific in many ways as, there is tank/ lake and not a flowing system like a stream or river at the bottom.

•  Sediment removal from the lake bed (for foundation for about 9 massive pillars), its dumping its subsequent handling .

•  Turbidity and disturbances will ecologically kill this small wetland.

•  The massive scale of civil works, labour, and other associated activities involved will have very serious ecological impacts.

•  Covering 2/3rds of the water surface would affect the incident sunlight for most part of the day, affecting the primary production and hence have adverse effects on the trophic chain.

•  Many other linked ecological issues would arise as problems in future. In this situation however, whether the ecological impacts can be prevented or mitigated becomes the crucial question before us, the Ecoliterates?

   Among these two alternatives however, alternative (1) appears to be most ecologically appropriate in light of the impacts listed above. What course may be taken in future may of course become a matter of bad or lost case of ecological history unless the concerned including the Ecoliterates put effective efforts.


    A lot of money was spent on restoration and management efforts on this lake. The restoration efforts were started sometime during 1998. Treated water and use of wetland engineered water quality enhancement systems were to be adopted. Since so much of effort has gone in, it needs to be assessed as to how the whole wetland system has changed. The positive or negative aspects need to be put down by the concerned agencies from time to time. This would help to draw ideas for changes, use or otherwise to help future management of the system and adopt the positive measures if any for handling other wetlands in future.


    Efforts to restore this wetland system also began along with Madivala and Agara lakes around 1998. It has been a positive experience that the habitat after a stabilisation phase of about 2 – 3 years, has been able to attract birdlife as before. The water certainly looks ecologically much healthier than earlier when sewage water used to enter the lake

    The issue is that this wetland is just in the phase when the benefits of the yet to be ecologically assessed restoration process are probably becoming visible to the public. However, it is the public money, which has been spent. The habitat itself, going by the past tradition of tanks/ lakes should be maintained and managed for good public use. Presently the best uses could be for nature learning, wetland awareness centre, etc., for serving recreation utilities like aesthetic spaces for the use of public and most important, as a large and refreshing lung space for citizens.

    It is felt that this issue is an important one to be looked at by wetland ecologists, conservationists and naturalists. This is important because the future of other wetlands, if and when efforts are made for restoration will need to be taken care of for the general benefit of the public.
Surprisingly, even before the public can realise some of these small and very essential pleasures of life, privatisation of wetland has begun. The general public is not accessible to the public utilitarian benefits, which should accrue to them from such wetland systems within the city.

The emerging conflict situations:
    The wetlands as such are ecologically well realised, play a multiple utility role apart from their immense role in aquatic ecology. Their role in the public domain is also very crucial. This is especially so in the case of large cities. In a city like Bangalore the issue gains much higher significance. This is in view of the explosive growth of the city in terms of infrastructure and massive structures and their attendant problems in terms of facilities for the life of so many people being added. The real estate is an added factor by itself. The resultant pressure is felt on the open spaces (parks, gardens and open spaces in urban region and revenue lands, green belt areas, former common lands, village open areas, open spaces around hills, hillocks, highlands, possibly some small areas abutting reserve forests, etc., in the outskirts). The important questions, which remain are with regard to the future of the above public spaces, which should actually serve as the local climate stabilising microclimate areas.

    Of course the only other areas then, are the remaining tanks/ lakes and some small remaining areas in their atchkat (irrigated regions associated with lakes).

Current status of Awareness

    In the Indian context presently, it is felt that there is a strong need to exercise the intellectual democratic powers and the political democratic powers in a balanced manner as the present world seeks to strike a normally asymmetric balance between ecology and development. The asymmetric balance at present seems to be rather heavily skewed in favour of political democracy since it is a power centric fast process but the intellectual democracy in the context of ecological domain is nature centric i.e., slow or episodal. By this it is meant that processes like adaptation, evolution, etc., are slow, sometimes taking ages and events of nature which we normally term as calamities like earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, meteor/ meteorite hits etc., express their powers in a sudden or episodal manner. These are actually scientific processes which lead to normal natural ecological processes world over, over time.

    Role of Institutional libraries in ecological and conservation activities :

    It is felt that the Libraries of any institution be it school, college or higher learning can play a very significant role in stimulating nature related learning experiences. With the right institutional inspiration, encouragement and involvement of staff interested in nature related and conservation activities; highly fruitful efforts can be made by institutions towards ecofriendly learning or activities by students or student groups. This would also help develop ecological mindsets in the youth. Thus, there is a very strong case where group efforts in such learning centres can make libraries sensitive and proactive towards nature related issues. The major inputs over time would be building up of suitable environment related information banks, which can be continually updated over time. Overall these activities in libraries can make institutions and hence their wards ecoliterate. As can be visualised, such students would certainly be ecofriendly citizens which in itself would be a great contribution toward ecofriendly development in all fields.


    Some protection, conservation, eco-restoration and management (or mismanagement) efforts are discussed in light of the event changes from about the pre 1970s to the present. An overview of the chronological events with reference to wetland of Bangalore for nearly the last 4 decades is indicated. The roughly 10 year period of 1985 to 1995 is indicated as the ‘Realisation phase’ or more appropriately ‘wetland concept turnover phase’, a very important period as far as the fate of wetlands of the Bangalore region are concerned. The major events during the other periods before (viz., normal/ control, less critical, critical) and after (viz., restoration and the present, of conflicting situations) the just mentioned one have, been provided.

    Case observations in view of conflict situations have been identified and indicated for the Gottigere, Madivala and Hebbal lakes. Indications and the intended messages are provided for the benefit of wetland ecologists, conservationists and naturalists locally of the Bangalore region. This is indicated to be crucial in view of the future of other wetlands in the region and the benefits accruable by future lake ecorestoration efforts, which may otherwise be possibly lost by the general public.

    The crucial role that can be played by libraries of institutions, be it school, college or places of higher learning in stimulating nature related learning experiences has been examined. Schools could be the specific target areas. Their end result can be the development of ecologically better sensitised citizens for a better ecological future and conservation of our natural resources.

    Further, the role of awareness and some action oriented involvements from the ecoliterate; young citizens (school/ college students) enthused by the ecoliterates and other stakeholders like the general public has been indicated to be very critical. A proactive role in general for all ecoliterates and their peer groups is believed to be vital in achieving any ecological or conservation related efforts of course including wetlands.

    A strong need to exercise the intellectual democratic powers and the political democratic powers in a balanced manner in the present and future ecological scenario of Bangalore is stressed as vital. The urgency of the matter is focused upon so that strong and forceful attempts are made to save the ITBT city’s remaining wetland resources; at least, as relics of ecologically managed, biodiverse, public utility resources and as last of the lung spaces to enable the Bangalore Metropolis to avoid a suffocating future death.

    In view of so many ecological pressures on the wetland resources, all Ecoliterates need to pool their efforts, concerns, suggestions, opinions, etc., under some institutional leadership to make their say forceful and acceptable by the decision makers. The institution needs to also have a sound public acceptability as a prerequisite.


    Sincere thanks are due to all the authorities of my present work place for all the encouragement and support. The library and its staff are especially thanked for a lot of working. A lot of proactive ideas regarding the possible role of libraries as well as action support came in from Suresh. N.P. The stimulus to work on this paper for the sake of the young generation and support for some computer literacy came from some young friends. For this, I am indebted to Ramya. K, Prerana P.N and Ranjit. With regard to the time resource my sincere thanks for support from the home front as well as Prof. Nataraj.


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