Theme: 2. Lakes—Conservation, Restoration, Management Papers 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
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1. Abstract  
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A wetland is a land that is seasonally or permanently covered by shallow water, as well as land where the water table is close to or at the surface. Putting an economic value on something as abstract as the ecological services of a wetland is a difficult idea for most people. More commonly, the open market puts dollar values on society's goods and services. In the case of wetlands, there is no direct market for services such as clean water, maintenance of biodiversity, and flood control. There is, however, a growing recognition that such natural benefits do have real economic value and that these values need to be included in decision-making processes. This paper is an effort towards valuating Kukkarahalli Lake for the sake of conserving it for Mysoreans as well as for many including Birds who visit Mysore as a tourist spot .

2. Introduction

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According to the definition given by Ramsar convention in 1971 “wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing; fresh, brackish, or salty, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.''

A lake is a body of water or other liquid of considerable size surrounded entirely by land. A vast majority of lakes on earth are fresh water. Lakes may be natural or manmade. As a resource base, lakes have provided sustenance to millions down the ages; and as a landscape they have spawned cultural links and traditions.

Today all kinds of lakes without exception have suffered environmental degradation. The human settlement and public effluent sources are the chief factors for the degradation of lakes particularly the urban lakes. A lake front property has societal prestige which causes intense shoreline development in urban centers and this adversely affects the water quality of lake. The anthropogenic pressure in the catchments area itself has resulted in degradation of the catchments area due to deforestation, extensive agricultural use and consequent erosion and increased silt flows, which have vitiated the quality of water stored in the lakes.

In the lakes which have survived today drinking water has been substantially reduced or totally have become non potable, flood absorption capacity impaired ,biodiversity threatened . Growth of water hyacinth, cultural siltation, tourist presence has tremendously influenced many lakes to loose their presence.

Wetlands have lots of the direct, indirect and existence benefits to human being as well as to animals and birds. The economic valuation of wetlands helps to understand the constituents' functions and benefits and this exercise could act as a catalyst for wetland conservation.


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Putting an economic value on something as abstract as the ecological services of a wetland is a difficult idea for most people. More commonly, the open market puts dollar values on society's goods and services. In the case of wetlands, there is no direct market for services such as clean water, maintenance of biodiversity, and flood control. There is, however, a growing recognition that such natural benefits do have real economic value and that these values need to be included in decision-making processes.

Today, most of the developmental decisions are made on economic grounds and more, on the basis of the forces at play in the free-market system. While this new paradigm has its own limitations and dangers, it would be unrealistic to ignore it and to base our quest for the conservation and wise use of wetlands on a completely different set of values.

The objective of this paper is to know the significance of economic valuation in case of natural resources and give an economic value to wetlands if their conservation is to be chosen over alternative uses of the land itself or the water which feeds the wetlands, and also to confirm that in many ways, the economic benefits received from wetlands are comparable to the benefits received from public goods such as public schooling, health care and municipal infrastructure


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Economic evaluation in the environment context is about measuring the preferences or choices for an environmental benefit or against environmental degradation. Valuation is therefore in relation to preferences held by people. Moreover, the use of economic values permits the comparison that is required between ‘environmental' and ‘developmental' values.(Ramchandra)

Wetland ‘values' may be derived from outputs that can be consumed directly , such as food, water supply, recreation, or timber; indirect uses which arise from the functions occurring within the ecosystem, such as water quality, and flood control; possible future direct or indirect uses such as biodiversity or conserved habitats; and the knowledge that such habitats or species exist (known as existence value ) (Serageldin, 1993).

The need for economic valuation arises for formulating efficient programmes. Valuation is required to know what is the amount which the current generation sacrifices to make the natural resources available to future. Depreciation in the stocks of natural resources requires proper valuation to ensure sustainability. The purpose of economic valuation is to reveal the true costs of using scarce environmental resources. Wetland goods and services must be given a quantitative value if their conservation is to be chosen over alternative uses of the land itself or the water which feeds the wetlands.

For natural resources such as fish or timber, there is a world market which allows easy calculation of the worth of the wetland. The value of wetland functions, such as water quality improvement, may be calculated from the cost of building treatment works to perform the same processes. It is much more difficult, however, to value biodiversity or the aesthetic beauty of wetlands, as the market for such "products" is much more elusive and their economic valuation much more difficult to achieve with traditional methods. Another major hurdle is that developing countries face significant problems in appropriating the global benefits of wetland conservation, such as their biological diversity (Pearce & Moran, 1994). Consequently, new means of appropriation must be developed and added to.

Natural wetlands provide free of charge many valuable functions (e.g., flood alleviation, groundwater recharge, retention of pollutants), products (e.g., fish, fuel wood, timber, rich sediments used for agriculture in the floodplains, tourist attractions), and attributes (biodiversity, aesthetic beauty, cultural heritage and archaeology).

Examples of Economic Wetland Benefits

Direct Use
Indirect Use Benefits Option Benefits Existence Benefits
    - boating
    - birding
    - wildlife
    - walking
    - fishing

 trapping-  hunting

 commercial   harvest
    - nuts
    - berries
    - grains
    - fish
    - peat
    - forestry
 nutrient retention

 water filtration

 flood control

 shoreline protection

 groundwater recharge

 external ecosystem support

 micro-climate stabilization

 erosion control

 associated expenditures, e.g., travel, guides, gear, etc.
 potential future uses (as per direct and indirect uses)

 future value of information, e.g., pharmaceuticals, education



 bequest value


This paper is based on secondary data. Works which have concentrated on conserving the beauty ,aesthetic value and eco system of Kukkarahalli lake have been utilized to make this paper. Economic activity involves the use of materials and energy, and, once transformed into products, the same resources become, sooner or later, waste products. Attempt has been made to evaluate the natural resources like lakes which have externality effect and market failures.


In economic theory, value means exchange value. Since money is the medium of exchange, the value of the benefit is generally determined by its price - that is, the quantity of money for which it will be exchanged. However, the value of a benefit is not simply the price of that product on the open market. It is, rather, the worth of that benefit to a potential buyer. This is measured in economic terms as willingness to pay . There are many other forms of value beyond market economic terms including subjective and intrinsic values. These values are particularly important in environmental conservation in general, especially for wetlands.

Therefore, in considering the value of natural areas such as wetlands, one is trying to determine people's willingness to pay for benefits ranging from aesthetic beauty to recreational opportunities to clean water.

If ecosystem values are as real as other economic values, why do economic decisions tend to favor the destruction of natural ecosystems rather than their retention? Economists trace this problem to something called market failure – the failure of markets to reflect the full or true costs of goods and services.In fact, these ecosystem services are provided for free - they do not have to be purchased. It is only when these services are lost that actual monetary costs are incurred. So paradoxically, the zero prices for wetland services is of very high value to human well-being. Biologists, hydrologists and engineers do not yet fully appreciate or understand all of the benefits that wetlands provide to protect ecosystem stability. This lack of scientific understanding undervalues wetland benefits and contributes to market failure.

The strategies to work toward conservation of lakes:

  1. increase public awareness and commitment to protecting wetlands;
  2. develop a wetlands database and an increased understanding of wetland dynamics;
  3. secure wetlands;
  4. create, reclaim and rehabilitate wetlands;
  5. strengthen legislation, policies, agreements and compliance;
  6. strengthen local planning and commitment to protecting wetlands;
  7. improve coordination and planning among government and non-governmental organizations; and
  8. Evaluate the program.


Case study of kukkarahalli lake:

The jog path/walkway along the Kukkarahally lakeThe Kukkarahally lake

Mysore District is located at 770 mt above sea level at 12.18 degree north and76.42 degree east and is 135 km from Bangalore the capital city of Karnataka . The city is known as a tourist and heritage center. The economic growth of Bangalore and its Push effect have a significant demographic and economic impact on Mysore .

Housed amidst the Mysore University campus, is Kukkarahalli lake with 1.20 acres water spread having 4.5 sq. km catchment area.   This lake is found at the western edge of Mysore .   The lake was built by Deewan Poornaiah in 1864.   Water was being supplied around this time, to the neighboring areas through iron mains which were installed then. It may be sufficient water to Mysore city, then a small town, before the Vanivilasa Water Supply Project was taken up over several years ago, during the reign of the Mysore Maharajas.

The lake has attracted leading literary and other personalities of Mysore in the mornings and in the evenings for their daily stroll. It has inspired poets and writers like Dr.K.V.Puttappa (Kuvempu) and R.K.Lakshman, who were residents of the city(whose works can never be evaluated economically and also the contribution of kukkarahalli Lake regarding this.). Even today the lake bund is used by early morning walkers and joggers, despite its deteriorating condition.

  After Cauvery water supply was made available to people. This lake was taken charge by Mysore University in the year 1960.Kukkarahalli lake has many direct and indirect uses to the people. Being an Urban lake it has been a spot for recreation. Many people use it for daily walking, viewing in the form of direct use benefit. Not only that it has got many non use values like bequest value ,Biodiversity ,Cultural values to Mysoreans Bequest values is particularly high among the local populations currently using lake, in that they would like to see the wetland and their way of life that has evolved in conjunction with it passed on to their heirs and future generations in general. Table 1 lists various use and non-use values of wetlands.

Within last 20 years the lake got chocked by weeds.   There was a growth of water hyacinth in the lake.   In order to check the surface erosion a bund was built.   The sewage water brought in along with it toxic pollutants through the feeder canal.   People in the surrounding area knowingly or unknowingly destroyed the feeder canal more or so at the catchment area.   When the Mysore University decided to divert the inflow of sewage at a cost of 50 lakhs the last 5 km stretch was declared as ‘green belt' to stop unwanted activities of the humans and the construction work also stopped.   The lake has been maintaining water level until recently, because of sewage inflow.   The overflow vent is located at the point of the entry of the feeder canal. Sewage was being drained into the lake from the neighbouring areas like Vinayaknagar, Paduvarahalli, Manasagangothri, CFTRI, Ontikoppal etc. This has choked the water catchment area. The sewage water brought in filth, garbage, pesticides, insecticides, domestic cleaners, automobile lubricants, human filth, cattle refuse, medical wastes like syringes etc, plastics rotting food items and Nitrogenous wastes and organic phosphates got accumulated in the feeder canal.   Due to this fresh water inflow from the catchment area has decreased.   This imbalance has brought about a change in the aquatic ecosystem. Quite recently in order to stop the sewage due to unplanned, unscrupulous, undesirable activities, the sewage was diverted.   Encroachment activities took place and much of the feeder canal was lost.   There is a need to rebuild the feeder canal and the restoration has to be planned well.

Presently, Lake opacity is due to the algal bloom. Aquatic forms are put to stress during night times, as algal photosynthesis reduces during nights. Rampant growth of noxious weeds, water hyacinth and algae has reduced the oxygen supply to aquatic forms. Insecticides like DDT, BHC are seen in the catchment area

The lake is spread over 58 hectares with a shoreline of roughly five kilometres and harboured nearly 200 species of birds. It was common to find at least 10,000 to 15,000 of them at any given point of time during winter when a large number of migratory birds used to come and roost in the lake. But it is no longer the case and it is difficult to count even 2,000 birds at any given point of time, according to naturalists. 31 species of birds used to breed in the lake but they have not been found since the lake became popular among the public. The growing popularity of Kukkarahalli lake among morning walkers and the increase in human-induced disturbance has affected the bird population of the lake whose numbers has seen a steep decline in recent times .

Environmentalists and botanists are of the opinion that toxic metals like cadmium, chromium, nickel, vanadium are present in the lake which has impaired the aquatic ecosystems. Intolerable stench and death of fish were reported due to toxicity and pollution in the lake, the metallic pollutants like mercury, lead, zinc, cadmium and copper are the most harmful heavy metals.   Mercury is known to be toxic to fish. Digging the fertile earth for human use, allowing the cattle to graze and allowing offshore cooking are also factors contributing to the problem.

Protection of the lake's environment :

Status of a wetland depends on its management, level of anthropogenic activities, management of land, solid waste collection and disposal, disposal of used water and also attitude of the people at large. Urbanisation and anthropogenic stress to meet the growing land needs of Mysore City have resulted in disappearance of wetlands, which has led to the discontinuity of the drainage network . Kukkarahalli Lake Protection Committee convener K.M. Jayaramaiah said pollution has increased in the water body owing to blue-green algae growth. The committee stressed the need to install the system and pointed out that it will help minimize pollution by stopping the flow of sewage into the lake. At the same time, it will ensure a steady flow of rainwater from the catchments area during the monsoon. Following are some of the measures needed to follow to conserve any lake and to keep them away from pollution.

Not making use of the lake for dumping of Ganesha Idols or ritualistic social beliefs

To ban the disposal of unwanted materials like plastics, papers, flowers, pots, plantain leaves, such other items.

Unregulated tourism practices to be strictly prohibited.

Lake area to be declared as protected area.

Not to allow people and industries to dump their waste materials.

Pesticides and Insecticides to be banned, which come from industrial areas ,CFTRI, Manasagangothri Campus.

Desilting should be done regularly and the removed sediment to be dislocated from the area.

Greening the area is must, trees and shrubs to be planted exotic plant varieties can be grown.

Making sure that sewage diversion is effective and there is no leakage anywhere.

Physical, chemical, biological parameters to be determined and constantly monitored. Toxicity studies should be carried out regularly.

Aqua culture to be encouraged.

Treating waste water at the University before it reaches the lake.

Boating to be avoided or if used for recreational purposes use only row boats or pedal boats.

Nest boxes to be provided on the tree top for the birds to perch on.

Finding means to filter, the incoming flow of water.

A wild life habitat for bats, bees, wild flower, deer, orchids, water creatures, insects may be provided.

Digging of fertile earth for human use, off shore cooking, allowing cattle to graze should be stopped.

Conserving these natural resources should not be considered as one time work.It shoud be a wholesome work.

Education and awareness regarding conservation is the need of the day.Since people are getting most of the benefits free of cost. They are unable to give any value to them.

After spending more than Rs.91 lakhs towards its "development" that resulted in cosmetic treatment of the lake, there is little to show except the polluted water that is emanating stink and has driven away the birds. While a few birds are reported to have died recently in the vicinity of the lake, there are unconfirmed reports of fish kill owing to increase in the toxicity. The restoration of this lake can improve the ground water table and improve the aquatic life in the lake.

The number of migratory birds has declined drastically due to human intrusion and environmentalists warn that there are dangers of bird death and fish kill due to pollution.

An exotic eco system that was once throbbing with myriad life forms, the lake is today crying for attention and may soon be a cesspool of contaminated water devoid of aquatic and avian life if no steps are taken as an emergency measure. A treasure trove of biodiversity that harbored over 30,000 birds of nearly 165 species during migratory season, the lake is choking with hardly any bird life left. And as bio-indicators, their absence augurs ill for the lake.

The university is contemplating of levying a nominal amount as entrance fee to raise revenue for maintenance. The water body is reckoned to require approximately Rs. 5 lakhs to Rs. 7 lakhs for maintenance. However, the proposal has been opposed by a section of the public


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It is important to stress that economic valuation is not a panacea for all decisions, that it represents just one input into the decision-making process, along with important political, social, cultural and other considerations. The goal of this text is to assist planners and decision-makers in increasing the input from economic valuation in order to take the best possible road towards a sustainable future.

Economic decisions of developmental projects, which exclude ecosystem values, lead to ecosystem degradation. Economists trace this problem to market failure, that is the failure of markets to reflect the full or true cost of goods or services. In the case of a wetland, the calculation of the economic value for converting the wetland area to housing or commercial layouts does not include costs such as loss of water quality/quantity or flood control.  Since these ecosystem services are available free to all and not purchased, there is a tendency to neglect the quantification of the vital function of these ecosystems and indirect benefits derived from them. It is only when these services are lost, the actual financial or commercial costs are incurred. So paradoxically, the zero price for wetland services is of very high value to human well being.

Undervaluing of wetlands can be a serious problem when outright conversion of the wetland area is at stake. As noted in previous sections, development or conversion of the wetland tends to produce marketable outputs, while maintaining the wetland in a natural or managed state usually leads to the preservation of non-market goods and services . Such a dichotomy often results in the development option – i.e., conversion to agriculture, fish ponds, and commercial or residential property – being widely regarded as the most valuable wetland use. As such activities also generate additional government revenue, it is not surprising that decision-makers also support the conversion of wetlands to ‘commercial' uses.

Wetlands have been described both as "the kidneys of the landscape", because of the functions they can perform in the hydrological and chemical cycles, and as "biological supermarkets" because of the extensive food webs and rich biodiversity they support (Mitsch & Gosselink, 1993).


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1. T.V. Ramachandra and Rajinikanth., Economic valuation of wetlands technical report., IISC

2. Edward B Barbier, Mike Acreman and Duncan Knowler, 1997. Economic Valuation of Wetlands, A Guide for Policy Makers and Planners, IUCN Publication Unit, Ramsar Convention Bureau Gland , Switzerland . pp 1- 46, 81- 97 and 110- 127. 

3 .Mysore city development plan under JNNURM scheme

4. Rajinikanth.R and Ramachandra, T.V, 2000. Restoration of Lakes in Bangalore based on Status and Socio-economic aspects of wetlands, Project report, November 2000. 

5. Ranjani V.G and Ramachandra, T.V, 1999. Bathymetric Analysis and the Characterization of Hebbal Lake to Explore Restoration and Management Options, Project report, September 1999. 

6. Serageldin, 1993. Making Development Sustainable. Finance and Development. December 1993. Vol 30:(4):6. 

7.Sudhir H S and Kumar V S.,2000,Monitoring of lake water quality in Mysore city.,Paper presented at Lake2000.

C/o Dr. M K Mahesh, 1008/5, University Quarters, Opp. to firebrigade, Kantharaju's road, Sarswathipuram, Mysore.


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