At least 25 out of the 37 water bodies in Vijayawada and Nagari town in Andhra Pradesh were found encroached upon, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) has stated.
The CAG found that five ponds have actually disappeared and three of them were ancient ones that had earned the tag of World Heritage Irrigation Structures. Sadly, the encroachment was done by none other than the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) i.e. municipalities.
The water bodies located in and around cities or human settlements are threatened by rapid urbanization with little or no attention paid to local ecology.
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The CAG audit found an indoor stadium and a Rythu Bazaar in Nalla Cheruvu and ZP high school, gram panchayat office and an anganwadi centre in Nagari town.
The ancient Cumbam tank in Prakasam district, Porumamilla tank popularly known as Anantharaja Sagaram in Kadapa district and KC Canal in Kurnool district recently got the World Heritage status.
The exact extent of encroachments was not known as the revenue department had not undertaken any physical survey in recent times. The last physical surveys/measurements were conducted way back in 1906 to 1956.
The CAG found that most municipal authorities failed to notify the water bodies as municipal assets. They should have geo-tagged/geo-mapped the locations and provided fencing to the water bodies, the report observed.
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At several locations, the government itself had converted ponds into residential colonies, which led to disappearance of the water bodies.
The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India held the authorities responsible for their laxity in carrying out the mandate of protecting the water bodies in the state and their failure in evicting encroachers from the water bodies. The report said that delayed action has increased risk of further encroachment in the years to come.