Urban Water Bodies

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Urban Water Bodies

Application: GS Paper- 3

How do we define urban lakes?

  • There is no specific definition for ‘urban lakes’ in India. According to the National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP), a water body having a minimum depth of three meters, spread over more than 10 hectares, and having no or very little aquatic vegetation, is considered as a lake.

The definition provided by NLCP is based on broad hydrological and morphometric criteria of a lake:

  • The apparent definition of urban lakes seems to those located entirely within city limits (census town) and directly surrounded by urban developments, with some recreation facilities limited to the shoreline area (parks, playgrounds).


  • The lakes which are predominantly affected by urban human populations and their drainage basin is dominated by urbanization, rather than geology, soils or agriculture. Such lakes are situated only partially within city limits, or attached but not necessarily surrounded, entirely by city development.
  • Lakes located in most Indian cities are generally permanent bodies of open water, with a significant size (>0.1 ha). These lakes are located according to the cities’ topography and are often placed in a series (inter-linked) to play a key role in urban storm water management. Urban lakes also help to mitigate the density of urban developments by creating passive open space areas.
  • One of the obstacles for effective protection of these interlinked lakes in cities is the lack of a clear definition of an ‘urban lake’ in the Indian context. The definition provided under the guideline of NLCP acknowledges only broad hydrological criteria to define a water body as a lake.
  • This definition ignores the fact that the water depth and spread keep changing every year, depending on various environmental factors. In fact, there are very few urban lakes that fit into this definition since most of them occupy a small area (<10 ha), are seasonal and shallow.

Image Credit- Down To Earth

What further attention is required for Urban Lakes?

  • These lake ecosystems are presently endangered due to anthropogenic disturbances caused by Urbanization as they have been heavily degraded due to pollution from disposal of untreated local sewage or due to encroachment, resulting in shrunken lakes.
  • Even after 26 years of pollution abatement works, only ten per cent of waste water generated in the country is treated.
  • The rest collects as cess pools or is discharged into the 14 major, 55 minor and several hundred other rivers.
  • It is quite clear that the overall status of quality of water in rivers, lakes and its links to groundwater has not been adequately addressed.
  • Out of the 43 Indian guidelines passed by the central and state government, 41 per cent of those talk about conservation and restoration of water bodies but only 10 per cent exactly describe the conservative measure.
  • Only 22 per cent of the guidelines are on subjects related to policies to be adopted by state government, urban local bodies etc.
  • This clearly identifies the missing links and marks the future prospects that India should adopt for the preparation of better and sustainable lake management plans.
  • Since a lake is a reflection of its catchment area, it is essential to first understand the significant changes or trends concerning the primary land uses within the catchment area / watershed draining into the lake.
  • There is no approach which defines the planning process for preparation of short, medium and long-term action plans for lake rejuvenation, considering its watershed area.

Image Credit: CSE (2016) State of India’s Urban Bodies

  • Developing urban wetlands and watershed are crucial to containing the crisis. The Smart Cities initiative’s framework for water management also must be implemented on a war footing.
  • To counter unplanned urbanization and a growing population, management of wetlands has to be an integrated approach in terms of planning, execution and monitoring.
  • Effective collaborations among academicians and professionals, including ecologists, watershed management specialists, planners and decision makers for overall management of wetlands.
  • Spreading awareness by initiating awareness programs about the importance of wetlands and constant monitoring of wetlands for their water quality would provide vital inputs to safeguard the wetlands from further deterioration.
  • It is essential to have a document with clear understanding of the lake’s watershed area, with specific goals, objectives, producing time-bound action plans.

What we can do to save urban lakes?

Areas need to focused

No clear definition of ‘Urban Lake’ and thereby missing the approach of ‘Urban Lake management plan’.A Lake Management Plan: 1) Encourages partnerships between concerned citizens, special interest groups, government body and water resources management practitioners 2) Identifies the concerns regarding the catchment/watershed of the lake 3) Sets realistic goals, objectives, and (short, medium and long-term) actions, and identifies needed funds and personnel.Conservation of Lakes and wetlands through an integrated and multidisciplinary approach with a common regulatory framework.No authoritative measures taken for formulation of inventory of ‘Urban lakes or water bodies’, ponds and lakes in Indian citiesSpecified roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders along with Centre, state and urban local bodies.

Way Forward-

  • Public financing for sustainable economic development is required of an hour in order to operationalize water management in a water-safe future.
  • Cities must have a multi-pronged approach from cutting greenhouse gas emissions to reclaiming waste.
  • Given that India has neither developed nor substantially transported waste water rehabilitation storage capacity in these two regions, there is a great deal of capacity in terms of water rehabilitation.
  • In addition, the country requires rainwater harvesting, micro-irrigation, and other steps in order to prevent waste, while shifting correctly from water-flowing crops and water pricing.
  • The country is struggling without a holistic view of the water—research shows that water stress and conflict are strongly interlinked.




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