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Monday, September 27, 2021

Ex-Army officer takes battle to lake encroachers in Bengaluru urban region

Former Army intelligence officer Capt. Santhosh Kumar has armed himself with data on the lakes and illegal land activities of the Anekal region of Bengaluru Urban district to pursue the battle to protect the environment.

Written by Aksheev Thakur | Bengaluru |
September 11, 2021 2:41:28 pm
former Army intelligence officer Capt. Santhosh Kumar

An ex-Army officer’s initiatives to protect the environment – especially lakes and ground water – using the power of information in the Anekal region of Bengaluru Urban district, has become a deterrent to rampant encroachments of lakes and the digging of borewells as the area undergoes rapid assimilation with Bengaluru City.

Undeterred by the lack of results from initial efforts he made by writing letters to the government soon after leaving the Army in 2008, former Army intelligence officer Capt. Santhosh Kumar has now armed himself with data on the lakes and illegal land activities of the region to pursue the battle to protect the environment.

“I am a farmer’s son. The blatant environment violations in Anekal taluk make my blood boil. During my school days, I used to swim in these lakes. When I returned from service, I found industries were discharging waste directly into the lakes,’ the 42-year-old said.

“I decided to knock on government doors to evict encroachers on the water bodies and storm water drains over which buildings were constructed,” he said. However, in the beginning, local authorities were tone deaf to his complaints on encroachments, pollution of the lakes and misuse of groundwater.

One of his key concerns was the unabated illegal pumping of water from lake beds through borewells as it affected agricultural activities in over 20 villages in the region. “With the government being unresponsive to complaints, I decided to collect evidence of violations. It took a while. In 2019, I came out with statistics about the illegal drilling of borewells on the Muthanallur lake bed,” Capt. Santhosh said.

Capt. Santhosh found the illegal borewells were pumping 15 lakh litres of water daily from Anekal to cater to the residents of Electronic City and Bellandur – the IT hubs of Bengaluru. “These lakes have been a source of water for several villages and settlements in Anekal. Now, everyday, more than hundred tankers are operating around these lakes to supply water to other parts of the city. Several citizens who are dependent on water for agricultural needs will be left with nothing; these are people who grow vegetables for the rest of the city,” Capt. Santhosh said.

“The relationship of a soldier with nature and the enviroment is hard to explain. We serve in the deserts and the hills. After retirement, I could not tolerate the brazen violation of the environment that I was seeing all around. This is one of the reasons I took up the initiative to save the environment,” he said.

The efforts to curb the plunder of natural resources in the region resulted in Capt. Santhosh receiving threatening calls for his interference in environment activism.

Capt. Santhosh wrote a letter to the then chief minister of Karnataka B S Yediyurappa, in which he listed violations occurring around the Chandapura, Muthanallur and Deverakere lakes. The letters to the CM and the attention of the Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner J Manjunath has helped him in stemming encroachments in Anekal.

When the attention was drawn to specific instances of violations and encroachments of lakes in the Anekal region, orders were issued to government departments to carry out surveys of the lakes and government lands. “Fortunately, we were able to reclaim several water bodies and hopefully, we will save more lakes,” Capt. Santhosh said.

Capt. Santhosh was commissioned as an officer in the Indian Army in 2000 and worked in the intelligence wing till 2008.

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