ENVIS Technical Report: 95,  August 2015


   T.V. Ramachandra1,2,*      Vinay .S1  Bharath H. Aithal1

1Energy and Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012
2Centre for Sustainable Technologies, Centre for infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP)
*Corresponding author: cestvr@ces.iisc.ernet.in, energy@ces.iisc.ernet.in [080-22933099]

Citation: Ramachandra T V, Vinay S and Bharath H.Aithal, 2015.  Detrimental landuse changes in Agara-Belllandur wetland, ENVIS Technical Report 95, CES, IISc, Bangalore, India

In recent years, there has been concern over the continuous degradation of wetlands due to unplanned developmental activities (Ramachandra, 2002). Urban wetlands are seriously threatened by encroachment of drainage through landfilling, pollution (due to discharge of domestic and industrial effluents, solid wastes dumping), hydrological alterations (water withdrawal and inflow changes), and over-exploitation of their natural resources. This results in loss of biodiversity of the wetland and loss of goods and services provided by wetlands (Ramachandra, 2009). The mitigation of frequent floods and the associated loss of human life and properties entail the restoration of interconnectivity among wetlands, restoration of wetlands (removal of encroachments), conservation and sustainable management of wetlands (Ramachandra et al., 2012).
Despite good environmental legislations, loss of ecologically sensitive wetlands is due to the uncoordinated pattern of urban growth happening in Bangalore. Principal reason is lack of good governance and decentralized administration evident from lack of coordination among many Para-state agencies, which has led to unsustainable use of the land and other resources. Failure to deal with water as a finite resource is leading to the unnecessary destruction of lakes and marshes that provide us with water. This failure in turn is threatening all options for the survival and security of plants, animals, humans, etc. There is an urgent need for:

  • Restoring and conserving the actual source of water - the water cycle and the natural ecosystems that support it - are the basis for sustainable water management
  • Reducing the environmental degradation that is preventing us from reaching goals of good public health, food security, and better livelihoods world-wide
  • Improving the human quality of life that can be achieved in ways while maintaining and enhancing environmental quality
  • Reducing greenhouse gases to avoid the deleterious effects of climate change is an integral part of protecting freshwater resources and ecosystems.
  • Maintaining intergeneration Equity

A comprehensive approach to water resource management is needed to address the myriad water quality problems that exist today from non-point and point sources as well as from catchment degradation. Watershed-based planning and resource management is a strategy for more effective protection and restoration of aquatic ecosystems and for protection of human health. The watershed approach emphasizes all aspects of water quality, including chemical water quality (e.g., toxins and conventional pollutants), physical water quality (e.g., temperature, flow, and circulation), habitat quality (e.g., stream channel morphology, substrate composition, riparian zone characteristics, catchment land cover), and biological health and biodiversity (e.g., species abundance, diversity, and range).  The suggestions to implement in lakes in order to maintain its healthy ecosystem include:

  • Good governance (too many para-state agencies and lack of co-ordination) - Single agency with the statutory and financial autonomy to be the custodian of natural resources (ownership, regular maintenance) and action against polluters (encroachers as well as those let untreated sewage and effluents, dumping of solid wastes).
  • De-congest Bangalore: Growth in Bangalore has surpassed the threshold evident from stress on supportive capacity (insufficient water, clean air and water, electricity, traffic bottlenecks, etc.) and assimilative capacity (polluted water and sediments in water bodies, enhanced GHG – Greenhouse gases, etc.). No new projects shall be sanctioned and the emphasis would be on increasing green cover and restoration of lakes.
  • Disband BDA – creation of Bangalore Development Agency has given impetus to inefficient governance evident from Bangalore, the garden city turning into ‘dead city’ during the functional life of BDA.
  • Digitation of land records (especially common lands – lakes, open spaces, parks, etc.) and availability of this geo-referenced data with query option  (Spatial Decision Support System) to public.
  • Comprehensive development plan (CDP) for the city has to be developed through consultative process involving all stakeholders and should not be outsourced to outside agencies / consultants (from other countries).
  • Removal of encroachment near to lakes after the survey based on reliable cadastral maps;
  • Remove all encroachments (without any mercy) of wetlands, lakes, rajjakaluves (storm water drain) – encroachers have violated all humanitarian norms and deprived large section of the society of ecological services (provided by wetlands)
  • Effective judicial system for speedy disposal of  conflicts related to encroachment;
  • Apply principles of ‘polluter pays’ principle to agencies responsible for contamination of Bangalore surface and ground water (Agency: BWSSB, industries);
  • Action against regulatory agency (KSPCB) for dereliction of statutory duties and other  responsibilities by allowing sustained contamination of water, land and air;
  • Decontaminate: Restriction of the entry of untreated sewage and industrial effluents into lakes; De-silt (to remove contaminants in sediments due to sustained inflow of pollutants - untreated sewage, and industrial effluents)
  • To make land grabbing cognizable non-bailable offence;
  • Decontaminate: Letting off only treated sewage into the lake through constructed wetlands and shallow algae ponds (as in Jakkur lake);
  • Regular removal of macrophytes in the lakes;
  • Decontaminate: Implementation of ‘polluter pays’ principle as per water act 1974;
  • Plant native species of macrophytes in open spaces of lake catchment area;
  • Decontaminate: Stop solid wastes (municipal and demolition debris) dumping into lakes; treatment and management of solid waste shall be as per MSW Rules 2000, GoI.
  • Ensure proper fencing of lakes
  • Restrictions on the diversion of lake for any other purposes - Lakes and wetlands provide ecological services (depending on the catchment integrity, duration may vary) – there are no dead lakes or wetlands
  • Complete ban on construction activities in the valley zones;
  • Monitoring of lakes  through network of schools and colleges;
  • Mandatory environment education at all levels (schools and colleges including professional courses).


Wetlands in Bangalore are to be restored considering:

Activities around lakes

Norms to protect and conserve Wetlands

Encroachment of lake bed and loss of interconnectivity among

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Civil appeal number 1132/2011 at SLP (C) 3109/2011 on January 28,2011 has expressed concern regarding encroachment of common property resources, more particularly lakes (and raja kaluves) 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

Buildings in the buffer zone of lakes

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 (Regional Master Plan, 2015)
  • Section 17 of KTCP (Karnataka Town and Country Planning) Act, 1961 and sec 32 of BDA Act, 1976
  • Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010, Government of India; Wetlands Regulatory Framework, 2008.
  • Valley zones are sensitive and are to be with any construction activities as per RMP 2015 of BDA

Valley  Zones

LAND USE CHANGES WITH THE CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES IN THE PRIMARY VALLIES – SENSITIVE REGIONS (as per RMP, 2015 of BDA). For example, the Proposed SEZ in Agara-Bellandur region is located in the primary valley of the Koramangala Challaghatta valley. Primary valleys in Bangalore are sensitive regions as per sensitive zone notification - Circular/35/BBMP/2008, dated: 26/11/2008) and buffer zone for primary valley is 100 m.

Construction activities in the valley zone (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, eventually leading to the degradation/extinction of lakes. This reflects the ignorance of the administrative machinery on the importance of ecosystems and the need to protect valley zones considering ecological function and these regions are ‘NO DEVELOPMENT ZONES’ as per CDP 2005, 2015

Alterations in topography

Flooding of regions would lead to loss of property and human life and, spread of diseases.

Increase in deforestation in catchment area

Removing vegetation in the catchment area increases soil erosion and which in turn increases siltation and decreases transpiration

Documentation of biodiversity

  • The biodiversity of every water body should form part of the School, College, People’s Biodiversity Registers (SBR, CBR, PBR).
  • The local Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) should be given necessary financial support and scientific assistance in documentation of diversity.
  • The presence of endemic, rare, endangered or threatened species and economically important ones should be highlighted
  • A locally implementable conservation plan has to be prepared for such species

Implementation of sanitation facilities

  • The lakes are polluted with sewage, coliform bacteria and various other pathogens
  • Preserving the purity of waters and safeguarding the biodiversity and productivity, dumping of waste has to be prohibited
  • All the settlements alongside the water body should be provided with sanitation facilities so as not to impinge in anyway the pristine quality of water

Violation of regulatory and prohibitory activities as per Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010;
Regulatory wetland framework, 2008

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2009.
Wetlands (Conservation and Management) rules 2010, Government of India; Regulatory wetland framework, 2008
Regulated activity

  • Withdrawal of water/impoundment/diversion/interruption of sources
  • Harvesting (including grazing) of living/non-living resources (may be permitted to the level that the basic nature and character of the biotic community is not adversely affected)
  • Treated effluent discharges – industrial/ domestic/agro-chemical.
  • Plying of motorized boats
  • Dredging (need for dredging may be considered, on merit on case to case basis, only in cases of wetlands impacted by siltation)
  • Constructions of permanent nature within 50 m of periphery except boat jetties
  • Activity that interferes with the normal run-off and related ecological processes – up to 200 m

Prohibited activity

  • Conversion of wetland to non-wetland use
  • Reclamation of wetlands
  • Solid waste dumping and discharge of untreated effluents

Damage of fencing, solid waste dumping and encroachment problems in Varthur lake series


High Court of Karnataka (WP No. 817/2008) had passed an order which include:

  • Protecting lakes across Karnataka,
  • Prohibits dumping of garbage and sewage in Lakes
  • Lake area to be surveyed and fenced and declare a no development zone around lakes
  • Encroachments to be removed
  • Forest department to plant trees in consultation with experts in lake surroundings 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 setting up district lake protection committees
  • Implementation of Handling, Treatment and Management of Municipal Solid Waste as per  MSW Rule 2000, GoI

Polluter Pays principle

National Environment Policy, 2006
The principal objectives of NEP includes :

  • Protection and conservation of critical ecological systems and resources, and invaluable natural and man-made heritage
  • Ensuring judicious use of environmental resources to meet the needs and aspirations of the present and future generations
  • It emphasizes the “Polluter Pays” principle, which states the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest

Prevention of pollution of lake

National Water Policy, 2002
Water is a scarce and precious national resource and requires conservation and management.
Watershed management through extensive soil conservation, catchment-area treatment, preservation of forests and increasing the forest cover and the construction of check-dams should be promoted.
The water resources should be conserved by retention practices such as rain water harvesting and prevention of pollution.

Discharge of untreated sewage into lakes

The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

  • Lays down standards for the quality of environment in its various aspects
  • Laying down standards for discharge of environmental pollutants from various sources and no persons shall discharge any pollutant in excess of such standards
  • Restriction of areas in which industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or carried out subject to certain safeguards

The water pollution, prevention and its control measures were not looked upon

Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974

  • It is based on the Polluter paysprinciple.

The Pollution Control Boards performs the following functions :

  • Advice the government on any matter concerning the prevention and control of water pollution.
  • Encourage, conduct and participate in investigations and research relating to problems of water pollution and prevention, control or abatement of water pollution.
  • Inspects sewage and effluents as well as the efficiency of the sewage treatment plants.
  • Lay down or modifiy existing effluent standards for the sewage.
  • Lay down standards of treatment of effluent and sewage to be discharged into any particular stream.
  • Notify certain industries to stop, restrict or modify their procedures if the present procedure is deteriorating the water quality of streams.

Pathetic water scenario and insufficient drinking water in Bangalore

The depletion of ground water and drying up off lakes has affected the water availability to meet the current population. 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 Hesaraghatta has dried, Thippagondanahalli 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

The restoration and conservation strategies has to be implemented for maintaining the ecological health of aquatic ecosystems, aquatic biodiversity in the region, inter-connectivity among lakes, preserve its physical integrity (shorelines, banks and bottom configurations) and water quality to support healthy riparian, aquatic and wetland ecosystems. The regular monitoring of waterbodies and public awareness will help in developing appropriate conservation and management strategies (Ramachandra, 2005).
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). Contamination of lake brings down goods and services value to Rs 20 per hectare per day.

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 (to ensure intergeneration 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 wetlands by KIADB, BDA, BBMP and many such para-state agencies.


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