Lakes of Bengaluru : the once living, but now endangered peri-urban commons

Azim Premji University,


Cities of the Global South are expanding both spatially and demographically. While urbanization may contribute to economic growth and employment generation, the impacts of urbanization on sustainability of cities is manifold. One area that is witnessing rapid land use change as a result of urbanization is the peri-urban interface of cities in India. This is especially true in the case of natural spaces that are also common pool resources. In this working paper, we examine the transformation of lakes in the peri-urban interface of Bengaluru city in the south Indian state of Karnataka. Based on GPS observations and interviews, we found that lakes in our study area varied in status and use: ranging from those in a good condition that served multiple uses to those converted to other forms of land use, resulting in loss of all services. We also accessed archival information to underscore the role that one of the lakes in the study area played in serving as a source of water during a time of scarcity. Using the example of lakes in Bengaluru, this paper presents the threats faced by commons in the peri-urban interface of rapidly expanding cities in the Global South. These threats are not restricted to changes to land use alone, but also concern their transformation into recreational sites at the cost of users who depend on them for livelihood and subsistence. We argue for management of the lakes in the peri-urban interface not only as ecosystems that supports ecological and economic uses, but as commons that are a reflection of the diversity and heterogeneity that cities such as Bengaluru represent.