Tragedy of the commons

The saga of our great Bellandur Lake system.

Once upon a time, there was Dakshina Pinakini or Ponnaiyar river, an old perennial waterbody, with lush vegetation on its banks and beautiful temples. Sangam literature talks of this lifeline of livelihoods and culture. This Pinakini was fed by water gathered by the Great Lake of Bellandur.

A breathtakingly beautiful glimpse Bellandur Lake's glory is seen in a series of photos taken by Praveen Singh in 1989. Bellandur in its happy days was rainfed by its three lakes upstream and its dream catchment area of 37,000 acres,

It is now gasping to survive, clearly seen in the juxtaposed photos shot by Praveen from the same place and angle. All that is left of it today is a shrunken catchment area, disappearing wetlands and the lake itself an unbelievable toxic mess that flows into Varthur lake and lands into the Dakshina Pinakini river. The old river Dakshina Pinakini does not exist anymore. Only some of Bengaluru's sewage enters this river through Varthur Lake and other channels.

You will be surprised to know that long time ago, we had some sensible administrators who interestingly thought about Bellandur Lake and we find the earliest mention of "plans to conserve Bellandur Lake" in the city's Master Plan of 1965.

But 50 years have passed since then, and governance seems to have failed. Today, we still have no scientific “vision for the city” put together with “people's inputs” that feed into a comprehensive Master Plan for our city.

The real estate boom of 2007 and Bellandur region's inclusion into the city municipal limits made the great Bellandur Lake system the sorriest example of “tragedy of commons”.

It now represents all that has scourged our city's common resources. Resources that are meant for everyone are being overexploited by the burgeoning population and sadly, no one in particular, either society or individual, is taking responsibility for the loss. This has led to a terrible mess with the lives of a large number of people who depend on these resources being jeopardised. We can no longer afford to ignore this ecocide.

We still see the bureaucracy and political class in suspended animation and the general public remaining mute spectators. At least now, we should talk of our moral obligation as citizens. We should unite and work towards Collective Responsibility and become those who “watch the watchmen”. We should enforce the rule of law to ensure that this great city and its people survive.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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