URBAN LAKES -Degradation and Restoration

URBAN LAKES -Degradation and Restoration

If there is magic on this planet it is contained in water


A water body having a minimum depth of three meters and which is spread over more than ten hectares which has very low or no aquatic vegetation is termed as a lake.  When this is located within the city limits surrounded by urban developments with some recreational facilities in the shoreline area are termed as urban lakes — according to the National Lake Convention Plan *2 (NLCP).


  1. Since the historical times *3 the cities were built along the river banks, waterways or lakes which influenced the development of urban areas. 
  2. The water from the lakes could be used for industrial purposes or even for the day to day uses of the people.
  3. The lakes ease the impact of floods and droughts by the means of storage.
  4. These lakes can be very beneficial in replenishing the level of the groundwater as they are essential receptors for groundwater recharge *4, positively influencing the water quality of downstream water resources. 
  5. Preserving the biodiversity and even the habitat of the surrounding area. 
  6. Lakes act as the cooling agent to the atmosphere of the urban cities which proves to be beneficial to the urban microclimate. 
  7. People from far and near come to visit these lakes for their serene beauty and hence these can be places for recreation and tourism
  8. Moreover these lakes are the primary sources of water  in many places. 


  1. POLLUTION– Explosive increase in the urban pollution has resulted in the disposing of the urban wastes such as local sewage and solid wastes into the urban lakes and as a result of this undisciplined activity many of the water bodies have been polluted and ultimately turned into landfills. For example, Bellandur is the largest lake in Bangalore, India, and nearly half of the city’s sewage flows into the lake each day.
  2. EUTROPHICATION A Greek word: eutrophia—healthy, adequate nutrition, development.   The excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or any other water body which leads to a dense plant growth is called Eutrophication.  In urban lakes the nutrients from the raw sewage cause destructive changes in the lake such as growth of aquatic weeds in lakes and ponds that ultimately disturb and kill the ecology of the lake. The studies conducted by NEERI on the request of Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (HMWSSB), Hyderabad during 1997-1998 to assess the effectiveness of various rejuvenating measures revealed that the condition of the lake is hypereutrophic and the various human activities continue to pollute the lake. Another study of the lake’s water and sediment conducted in 2008 found that it has exceeded its eutrophic condition, reaching hypereutrophic status.
  3. ENCROACHMENT– Due to rapid economic development and continuously growing urban cities even a small piece of land bears a very high economic value in these areas. Hence the urban water bodies are not acknowledged for their ecosystem services but as real estate leading to high scale encroachment.
  4. ILLEGAL MINING ACTIVITIES– The illegal mining activities leave sand and stones on the catchment area and bed of the lake. These have extremely damaging impacts on the waterbody.
  5. CULTURAL MISUSE– The misuse of the water bodies for cultural and religious practices * 5 which leads to disposal of many unwanted and toxic materials in the water which can be poisonous and can cause severe water pollution.


  1. GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS– In urban areas the water bodies are owned by land-owning agencies. However, their survival and protection depend on various institutions or agencies such as the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Agricultural Ministry, Fisheries Ministry and other local authorities, i.e., Municipal Corporations, Development Authorities, Tourism Department , Water supply Boards, etc.[ The Ministry of Environment and Forest implements the National Lake Conservation Plan (NCLP) , a centrally sponsored scheme aiming at the restoration of water quality and ecology of lakes in the country. ] 
  2. SPECIAL PURPOSE VEHICLES(SPVs)– SPV has been set up for lake management and conservation in many parts of the country such as Bhoj Wetland Authority for restoration and management of Bhoj wetlands in Madhya Pradesh and Chilika Development Authority in Odisha for Chilika Lake.
  3. NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANISATIONS – It’s not only the government that works in building a good environment but we as responsible citizens also need to protect the environment and do every possible thing at our end. A large number of non-government organizations such as WWF, UNEP (United Nations Environment Program), World Bank and many other small and local organizations and citizen groups such as Neela Hauz Citizen Group in Delhi and Save Urban Lakes in Bangalore are involved in the restoration of the lakes. 
  4. JUDICIARY AND LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS – In the last few decades a number of Public Litigation Interests (PILs) have been filled by various citizen groups that have been successful. Some of these are Powai and Charkop lakes in Mumbai against encroachment. Due to strict rules passed by the judiciary, the buildings were demolished in the upscale Maradu municipality that overlooked Vembanad Lake – the largest freshwater lake in India. The shores of Vembanad Lake are also home to the largest Ramasar site (a wetland area designated to be of international importance) in India, with 2,114sq km (816sq miles) of mangroves. 


    Lakes are the beauty of any city. They provide tourism opportunities with a large scope for recreational activities. They are the gift of nature to modern cities. Hence we should respect this and do our best to stop the pollution which these water bodies are facing. A lake management plan should be set up which can include:

  1. Partnerships between the concerned citizens and the interest groups along with the government bodies and water resource management practitioners. 
  2.  Identification of concerns regarding the catchment of the lake. 
  3. Setting realistic goals, objectives, and actions. 
  4. Identification of funds and proper ways of implementing them. 


The planning processes of the lakes should focus on sustainability and the resource utilization of the lake should be kept in the account. The lakes are a very rich resource for a city and in some cases can serve as the primary source of water. An integrated and multidisciplinary approach with a common regulatory framework may result in the conservation of lakes and wetlands. And this must be done to save our own ecosystem.


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