Thousands of fish tanks were dug up inside the wetland converting the lake into a mere drain. Apart from this the farmers had converted the land use pattern of the lake. This had a lot of impact in terms of pollution leading to even difficulty in getting drinking water for the local people. The total area of the lake converted to aquaculture ponds accounts for 99.73km2 in 2004in comparison to 29.95km2 in 1967. The area under agricultural practice in the wetland also increased from 8.40 km2 in 1967 to 16.62km2 in 2004. Sewage inflow from the towns of Eluru, Gudivada and even Vijayawada and industrial effluents, pesticides and fertilizers from the Krishna-Godavari delta region contaminate the lake. Eleven major industries release about 7.2 million litres of effluents into the lake every day.
In 1982, the Andhra Pradesh government set up the Kolleru Lake Development Committee (KLDC), which had set up a Rs 300-crore master plan for Kolleru. It also called for the creation of a Kolleru lake development authority to check encroachments, regulate and monitor pollution, clear the lake of weeds and use it as compost and raw material to produce biogas.
Writ petition filed by Dr. T. Patanjali Sastry, President, Environment Centre, Danavaipeta,Rajahmundry, in the High Court declaring the action of the respondents in not stopping the discharge of effluents from the industries that have come up in the vicinity of Kolleru lake and in permitting the construction of houses and roads in the catchment area of the lake and to direct the respondents to take appropriate steps to restore the lake to its pristine glory as before.
Writ petitions filed by the Kolleru Fishermen and Small-Scale Farmers Association and other organizations in High Court, complaining that the Government was not taking steps to stop pollution of the lake due to discharge of effluents from industrial units and untreated drainage from municipalities. They also said that the ecological imbalance of the lake is not due to fish tanks, but it was only due to the neglect of the lake by the Government and failure to have a check on the pollution caused by several industries and the municipal corporations.
Government issued a notification constituting Kolleru Wild Life Sanctuary and defining boundaries and margins. Because of the enforcement of GO Ms No 120 through which the State government declared the lake a wildlife sanctuary, the rights of nearly two lakh people, who are basically fishermen, came at stake. By doing this, the government had made it clear that the right of the local fishermen to do fishing by traditional methods is not taken away, but aquaculture in the form of any tank is prohibited. Notice issued of demolition of all fish tanks in the area would commence from April 20, 2006.
Dr. Ambedkar Harijan Fishermen Cooperative Society filed a PIL in the HC to challenge the validity of GO Ms. No. 120.In the same year another PIL in the HC by Dr. Ambedkar Cooperative Collective Farming Society Limited to challenge the validity of GO Ms. No. 120.
High Court dismissed the writ petition of 1999 saying that wet eco system cannot be exploited to the detriment of people at large for temporary gains. The Bench dealt with the contention that the notification was ultra vires, and said that the Government had the powers to issue the notification. The Bench directed the Government to adhere to the standards laid down by the Ministry of Environment regarding the lakes and effluents. And all writ petitions were disposed of.
In Amrch, the Kolleru Fishermen Cooperative Society moved to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Amnesty International, seeking to protect the livelihood of nearly two lakh people in the Plus Five contour of Kolleru Lake.
The Kolleru Fishermen Cooperative Society moved to challenge the validity of the GO Ms No 120 in Supreme Court by seeking to protect the people's right to life in the area. The ground was being prepared to file a writ petition in the Supreme Court, alleging that the Government, emboldened by the ruling by the High Court in defence of the need for wildlife sanctuary in the lake, was trying to enforce the GO Ms No 120 without having any forethought on the implications of evicting the local people at the cost of their right to life.
In March, restoration work for the lake started.
In November the aqua farmers and local people staged a rasta roko and threatened to commit mass suicide if their tanks were demolished. The district administrator took serious action against the agitators.
It was decide that a regulator will be constructed at a cost of Rs.30 crores on Upputeru at the mouth of Kolleru to provide the straight cut for the lake water to flow into the sea. The State Government will seek Rs.600 crores loan from the World Bank and other external sources for rehabilitation of the lake to its old glory with the removal of encroachments including aqua tanks up to the 10 ft. contour level.
Shri Pranay Waghray approached the Supreme Court for implementation of HC judgment.
The Central Empowered Committee (CEC), appointed by the Supreme Court to monitor environmental issues in the country, has directed the state government to remove all the encroachments on Kolleru Lake. About 31,000 acres of fish ponds had been removed from the lake.
In February, over 30 big leaseholders each owning fishponds of more than 100 acres gave separate written undertakings to the Krishna District Administration that they would vacate the lake before March 3.
In March, Kolleru Fishermen Cooperative Society challenged the validity in Supreme Court by seeking to protect the people's right to life in the area. He said that the government is following the Supreme Court orders without having any forethought on the implications of evicting the local people at the cost of their right to life.
In June, Lok Satta, a NGO said that the destruction of fish tanks in the Kolleru lake area could not bring back the past glory of the lake. It said that the massive operation to bring down these tanks would rob thousands of people of their livelihoods. It said industrial effluents and municipal sewage, and not fish tanks, were the major sources of pollution of the lake. Lok Satta has taken up the issue of Kolleru to ensure that the people receive a fair compensation and relief & rehabilitation package.
In December, the state government sanctioned Rs 15 crores for rehabilitation of the fishermen affected by the cleaning of the lake.
The forest department, which started work on demarcating the area of the sanctuary, is hamstrung because of the non-cooperation of the revenue officials. The forest officials had to stop work in some pockets following opposition and threat from tank owners. The main opposition party, Telugu Desam, is backing the tank owners in some stretches and even took out a rally in Akivedu demanding a stop to demarcation work.
Eco-tourism project of the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) for Kolleru Lake became a reality in February, with the corporation launching Rs. 1.5 Cr for the project.
In June it was decided that Kolleru lake would be developed at a cost of nearly Rs 860 crore over five years. The international NGO, Wetland International South Asia, prepared proposals at the behest of the state government. Of the total cost proposed for development, Rs 500 crore had been allocated for water management works.
In September the state government decided that the Kolleru Lake would be transformed into a bird watching. The state would be taking up this major project to develop it as an eco-tourism destination. A Rs.9-crore project was sanctioned by the Union Government.
In January, the state government put pressure on the forest department to finalize a proposal to reduce the sanctuary area of famous Kolleru Lake from the present plus five to three contour levels.
In April, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N Chandrababu Naidu said that the Lake would be regularized and the surplus land from the lake will be distributed to the poor farmers.
In September, the state government decided to protect the lake up to contour-3.