This thesis/report presents the findings of a study that was conducted for the fulfillment of the Masters degree at the School of Habitat Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The study traces the impact of the current mega infrastructure project, the Bangalore–Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project, undertaken between the two cities of Bangalore and Mysore on the lakes in the villages around the project area by describing the case of the state of lakes from three villages.
The BMIC project envisions redirecting development away from Bangalore in order to ease urban density in the heart of the city by including five new townships and 193 village clusters. The total area it covers is and comprises of expressway, peripheral road, link road, five townships and village clusters. The project’s advertised primary goals are to cut the driving time between the two cities of Bangalore & Mysore from three and a half hours to 90 minutes, thereby bringing in greater mobility.
The study aimed at:
- Understanding the evolution of BMIC project
- Exploring the lake management practices in the three village before and after project implementation
- Exploring the differential impact on the village communities and the linkages between land rights and water rights
The study found that the project led to land use change from agricultural rural areas in the periphery to urban land use. In the process, the landscape surrounding the lake and the village was transformed from a wetland-lake ecosystem, which acted as a village commons to a private property owned by a private entity or a fenced system disconnected from the ecosystem. This led to a negative impact on lakes with the lakes being inadequately maintained, polluted with sewage and solid waste and with depleting water quality and quantity as many of them were leased out to private entities. Lakes increasingly began to be looked upon as land property for profit-making leading to a shift in the view of lakes from ‘common property’ to ‘private property’.
There were several strong protests and agitations from a variety of civil society groups and several PILs were filed in the High Court. However, it was found that the local community had been left behind in the planning process and the interests of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged were taken over by the private interest groups for making profits. The traditional users who maintained the lakes were also gradually sidelined in this process. Thus, lack of consideration and value given to water resources such as lakes in the planning of the project led to gradual destruction of the ecosystems, biodiversity of the area along with depletion in quality and quantity of the lakes, poor access of the marginalised to this valuable water resource.
The study argues that lakes provide numerous essential ecosystem services and thus maintain the substantial biodiversity of the region. Therefore, every time when there is a need to develop new residential layouts or industries or infrastructure projects or expand existing ones, concern should be to preserve the eco-system of the lakes. It is thus necessary that the the government agencies involved co-ordinate and integrate themselves in a better manner to identify features of the lake such as to demarcate the lake areas and the Raja Kaluves and make plans to protect them. Government agencies must also involve traditional community-based users such as fodder collectors and fishermen etc, in the planning process itself.
The study ends by making the following recommendations:
- Protect lake systems while developing new layouts, industries and infrastructure projects
- Local rights to be recognised for better use of lakes
- Participation of women, young people in lake management
- Moving away from civil engineer’s model for lake restoration, islands should be made away from human activity and must be positioned at adequate distance from the mainbund and water-edge
- Live fencing of lakes instead of stone wall or mesh fencing
- New process of sewage treatment in a decentralised manner
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