Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Kolleru back to its prestine glory


December 27,2006
Environment: Looking Back at 2006
By Syed Akbar
The year 2006 will go down the history as the "year of environment" as far as Andhra Pradesh is concerned. The State witnessed the biggest-ever environment restoration operation in the country in the form of removal of age-old encroachments from Kolleru, Asia's largest fresh water lake.
The YSR government took up the "Operation Kolleru Clean up", a daunting ecological task which no other government in the past dared to even think it of. Most of those who encroached upon the lake and converted it into small fish ponds are influential persons with political affiliations. Leaders belonging to the ruling Congress, main Opposition Telugu Desam and other political parties including the BJP had been enjoying the rights over the lake, albeit illegally. Dislodging them was nothing short of stirring the hornet's nest.
But with the intervention of Supreme Court, the State government mustered enough courage to throw away the encroachers and restore the lake to its original pristine glory. The result are for everyone to see: No floods in Khammam, Krishna and West Godavari districts this rainy season and migratory birds from Siberia have flocked the lake for the first time in two decades this winter.
The State government completed such a massive restoration work in a record six months time after it launched it in January. Kolleru, spread over 900 sq km between Krishna and Godavari districts, is the largest fresh water body in Asia. The only other lake that matches Kolleru in the continent in terms of its grandeur and beauty is Chilka lake, but then Chilka is a brackish water body and not a fresh water one.
With the Kolleru lake being restored, Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has recommended West Godavari district collector Luv Agarwal for Padmasri award. The district collector restored the lake unmindful of the strong protests from farmers and politicians.
Thousands of acres of rich agricultural land in Krishna and Godavari deltas used to be submerged every rainy season causing heavy damage to standing crops. Kolleru is a natural lake which is fed by as many as a dozen streams and channels and is emptied by a channel, Upputeru, into the Bay of Bengal. As the fish ponds had been obstructing the flows into and out of the lake, thousands of acres of land and hundreds of residential areas used to get submerged after every heavy downpour.
For the first time in three decades there were no floods in the catchment area
of the lake. Kolleru is bird sanctuary and a protected forest area and yet the
government could not remove the encroachments all these years. The lake attracts more than 185 bird species and new species continue to be discovered. The lake also boasts of four rare bird species and 12 endangered ones. Kolleru is a protected area for pelicans and some come from as far away as Siberia.
Since the lake has 10 contours, some parts of the lake dry up during summer.
The erstwhile British government granted pattas to local people to cultivate
paddy during summer. The State government introduced co-operative farming in 1954. This led to gradual encroachment of the lake and by 1969 almost the entire lake had been encroached. As much as 21 lakh acres of the lake bed had been encroached up by paddy fields which were later converted into fish ponds upsetting the delicate ecological balance.
The economic boom led to construction of pucca roads and bridges obstructing the free flow of water.
Pressure on the lake led to proliferation of weeds leading to reduction in the
catchment area. A major ecological problem called, eutrophication, resulted in the lake. Fish production came down drastically.
The water spread in Kolleru varies from 135 sq km at plus 3 mean sea level to 901 sq km at plus 10 msl.
According to a report prepared by the Andhra Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, about a dozen major industries release 7.2 million litres of effluents into the lake daily. Moreover 17,000 tonnes of fertilisers are also emptied into the water body.

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