Activists question the handover of lakes to realtors

‘Government agencies hand in glove with real estate developers to compromise lake protection’

Activists and civil society representatives severely castigated the move by the State government to hand over the responsibility of lake protection to real estate developers.

The government has announced its policy through a statement on Tuesday, which said responsibility for protection of the water bodies will be part of the conditions for issuing layout/building permission. Activist and founder of Save Our Urban Lakes Lubna Sarwat questioned the very foundation of the decision and called it illegal.

“We already have the WALTA Act, 2002, which the Telangana government had adopted in its entirety in 2016. According to the Act, there are State level, district level and mandal level authorities who are entrusted with the responsibility of protection of water bodies. Heads and functionaries from all the State government departments concerned, ministers, public representatives and more importantly civil society representatives are part of these authorities which enjoy judicial powers to stop encroachment and pollution of lakes,” Ms. Sarwat said.

Besides, construction has been upgraded from Orange category to Red category of industries, by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, which indicated that it is a highly polluting industry.

“It is nobody’s secret that everywhere, real estate developers are eating away into the lakes, by developing ventures inside the lake or buffer areas. I alone have filed a dozen cases against developers encroaching the lakes. Does the government intend to legalise the encroachments? Is the minister cracking some kind of joke on the people of Telangana?” Ms. Sarwat fumed, and alleged that the government agencies are hand in glove with real estate developers to compromise lake protection.

Secretary, Forum for Good Governance, M. Padmanabha Reddy likened the decision to “handing over the house key to the burglar.”

“Tanks belong to the people. GHMC, HMDA and Irrigation are the departments responsible for protection of the lakes. Handing over the lake protection to real estate agencies goes against the people’s interest,” Mr. Padmanabha Reddy opined.

Each lake has an irrigation memoir with its boundaries marked, he said. The government’s responsibility is to fence the lake as per the coordinates, and divert the sewage flows, towards protecting it.

“People’s participation should be ensured by roping in the resident welfare associations and colony welfare associations. If at all, the builders and developers may be charged for the development of lakes in the area,” he said.

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