BBMP says road across Bengaluru’s Hoskerehalli Lake is temporary, but citizens suspect something fishy

Citizens for Hoskerehalli Lake has launched an aggressive campaign to save the water body from further encroachment.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Mar 31, 2023 | 11:00 AMUpdated Mar 31, 2023 | 11:00 AM

BBMP says road across Bengaluru’s Hoskerehalli Lake is temporary, but citizens suspect something fishy

More than 100 water bodies gave Bengaluru the sobriquet, the City of Lakes. The Hoskerehalli Lake is one among them.

Conservation has taken a backseat at Hoskerehalli, with several trucks emptying construction waste into the lake. The heap of debris dumped into the water body now looks like a 25-feet wide road across the lake.

The “road” across the lake begins from an adjacent kutcha path that leads to an underpass in the direction of Mookambika Nagar.

An earthmover parked by the lake augmented the suspicion that a road is being built, reclaiming a part of the water body. No one was near the heavy machine.

A neighbourhood resident told South First that a team of officials from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) inspected the site recently. A group of residents and activists, who had alerted the BBMP of the illegal road construction, too, joined them.

The officials reportedly said that they were unaware of the activity.

Walking track or pathway across the lake?

The residents first noticed a few men dumping construction debris into the lake two weeks ago. When questioned, they were told that a walking track is being laid around the lake.

The newly built retaining walls close to the Hoskerehalli lake boundary

The newly built retaining walls close to the Hoskerehalli Lake’s boundary. (Sourced)

The response made the residents more suspicious. A walking track need not be more than eight-feet wide. The residents alerted a few environmentalists, who acted immediately.

Joseph Hoover, president of the United Conservation Movement (UCM) and a former member of the State Wildlife Board, visited the scene. He learned that the activity was being carried out by keeping the BBMP — the custodian of the lake — in the dark.

“The activity was being carried out without inviting tenders or issuing a work order,” Hoover told South First.

The residents questioned the contractor, identified only as Panduranga. He told them that he was merely carrying out orders. His boss, MLA Munirathna Naidu, known just as Munirathna, asked him to take up the work, he said.

When contacted. Assistant Engineer Shilpa in BBMP’s Lake Department told the residents that she was unaware of any work being taken up at the Hoskerehalli Lake.

Also read: Karnataka PCB flags aquatic life degradation in Bengaluru lakes

De-silting, claims BBMP

Senior BBMP officials, however, admitted that they were aware of the activity. They told the activists that de-silting work was on at the lake, and a temporary road was being constructed to allow vehicles to ferry silt.

Hoskerehalli lake dumped with debris for muddy road

Debris dumped into the Hoskerehalli Lake to construct a mud road. (Sourced)

They also said that the road would be removed after completing the de-silting work.

The residents and activists, however, were not convinced. Hoover fished out photographs of de-silting works carried out in 2017.

“If the lake was de-silted in 2017, there is no need to do it again in 2023,” Hoover said.

Temporary pathways were constructed in 2017 as well, but it did not spark controversy. The de-silting was then carried out scientifically.

Sensing something fishy, residents and two non-profits, Jhatkaa.org and Namma Bengaluru Foundation, launched a campaign to save the Hoskerehalli Lake. A forum, Citizens for Hoskerehalli Lake, too, was formed.

Also read: Citizens walk in solidarity to save Sankey Tank in Bengaluru

A shrinking lake

The members of the forum met the BBMP’s Special Commissioner (Projects), PN Ravindra, who visited the lake recently. They showed the official photographs of the 2017 de-silting.

The lake was then under the care of the Bengaluru Development Authority.

Ravindra assured the residents and activists that he would look into the matter and the lake would be cleared of debris.

Activists said the Hoskerehalli Lake, spread over 59.36 acres, was under the Forest Department until 2010. The state government then handed over its custody to BBMP in 2011 and later, the BDA took it over.

The BBMP’s Lake Authority got custody of the lake again in 2019. By then, encroachments had shrunk the lake. Initially, seven acres were encroached, and later, five more acres.

The lake’s water-holding capacity has now come down to a little over 49 acres.

Also read: Notice to Karnataka minister over illegal construction on Malathalli lake

Citizen’s campaign

Despite Special Commissioner Ravindra’s promise, nothing has happened on the ground. Mounds of debris remain in the lake.

However, he told South First that tenders have been invited for the construction of a retaining wall at a cost of ₹7 crore. Sanction has been accorded for diverting a sewerage drain at a cost of ₹3 crore.

A mud road is being laid to facilitate the movement of vehicles involved in the sewage pipe-laying work. “Once the work is completed, the road will be removed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Citizens for Hoskerehalli Lake and a Mookambika Nagar-based arts club, Unicorn Art Club, started an aggressive campaign against the encroachment by initiating an online petition drive. They collected more than 3,400 signatures.

Rachna Ravikiran has been living in the locality since childhood. The lake has been part of her growing-up years.

A campaigner with Jhatkaa.org, Ravikiran said the degeneration of the lake started in December last when around 10 trees next to the water body were felled.

“When we questioned the corporator about axing the trees, we were told that the road was being widened and the retaining walls were being built. We protested against the felling of trees. Tall promises by politicians gradually silenced us,” Ravikiran, who now spearheads the movement to save the lake, told South First.

“I was not in Bengaluru until recently.  When I returned, I saw construction waste from all over the city has been dumped into the lake. We have initiated a campaign for not only getting the debris removed but also to rejuvenate the lake,” she added.

Also read: Residents irked as polluted lakes’ restoration remains to be in limbo

Activists suspect a conspiracy

Residents and activists expressed suspicion that the contractor who dumped debris is a close associate of local MLA Munirathna.

They expressed the belief that the BJP MLA is hand-in-glove with a prominent builder, who had developed four high-rise apartment complexes in the lake’s vicinity. A road across the lake would provide easy access to the complexes, avoiding the now circuitous route.

It is also suspected that an industrialist-politician, who owns seven acres nearby, too, prefers a road through the lake.

Munirathna, representing the Rajarajeshwari Nagar in the outgoing Assembly, did not respond to South First‘s calls.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a group of campaigners from the Citizens for Hoskerehalli Lake met BBMP Commissioner Tushar Girinath and handed over a letter, demanding the civic body ensure the removal of the dumped debris and rejuvenate the lake.

The commissioner is said to have assured them that the road work would stop.

“On Tuesday, trucks were seen moving the debris out. But on Wednesday, there were no trucks. We will aggressively pursue our campaign and ensure that the lake is clear of debris,” Ravikiran added.