Is privatisation the only way to save our lakes?

How can we protect and preserve our lakes? Who should protect and preserve our lakes? And is the “development” and privatisation of the restoration and maintenance of lakes in the guise of “public-private partnership” the solution?

These are obviously important questions at a time when public spaces are vanishing and the “State” is being quickly reduced to a real estate broker, taking land from here and giving it to private parties there.

And those questions are staring us in the face as the Lake Development Authority (LDA) in its infinite wisdom has awarded a contract to East India Hotels, the parent body of the Oberoi Group, to restore and develop the five-century old Hebbal Lake in Bangalore that has sustained farmers, fishing communities, cattle herders, washermen, casual workers, not to speak of tourists and sight seers.

For just Rs 72 lakh a year, the 150-acre water body—that’s roughly 6,750,000 square feet—will now be at the disposal of the Oberois, who will build a cafeteria, a floating restaurant, a children’s park, a handicrafts and gifts centre, a statue, and a medical centre. The lake will be fenced, and entry will be charged at Rs 20 per head.

All this in the name of saving the lake.

Is this the best way of saving Hebbal Lake or is a prime piece of public property being gobbled up in front of our lives? Is building monstrosities in a city of monstrosities the way forward? Is restricting entry by pricing admission the way to save the lake? Will the Oberois save the lake or kill it?

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Students of the Mallya Aditi International School, Bangalore are taking lead and organizing a candle light vigil on Saturday, August 4, 2007 at 6:30 p.m to save the Hebbal Lake. All you need to bring is candles and sense of care to save the lake.