About two years ago, when writer Usha Rajagopalan looked out of her balcony, the view that faced her was that of a vanishing lake called Puttenahalli Kere. As a longtime resident of the apartment complex L&T South City, Usha remembers the lake as a large water body that attracted several kinds of birds once.
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See: Kere in crisis
As apartments in the area grew and consequently, a slum started building up, encroachment, waste disposal and activities like bathing and fishing resulted in the lake’s water level and quality diminishing rapidly. The lake lies between Puttenahalli in JP Nagar VI Phase, Lakshmi Layout and between the boundary of L & T South City and Brigade Millennium residential complexes.
If you looked at it sometime last April, all you could see were puddles of water with a generous amount of garbage thrown in, from plastic bags to excrement. A year on, the lake is in BBMP’s list of 28 lakes to be revived thanks to the efforts of a few residents in the area. Their effort, still ongoing, shows why being collectively persistent pays off.
Saving the lake
Troubled by the fact that a fairly large water body was disappearing in their backyard, Usha and a few others in South City decided to form a Save Our Lake team. They wrote to the Chief Executive Officer, Lake Development Authority, with photographs taken from 2008 onwards to garner support. Their first few letters went unanswered but the team wasn’t disheartened.
"I also did a signature campaign among the residents and gave it along with a letter to the local MLA’s secretary Ramesh with the lake’s photographs. I got several promises in that first meeting but nothing concrete happened. About eight months later, I got to meet the MLA (M Krishnappa) himself when he came to South City to canvass for the Lok Sabha elections. I reminded him about my correspondence again," says Usha. She was pleasantly surprised to see within a week that a fence was being created to stop encroachment around the lake.
Ashok Das, another member of the Save Our Lake team and a clean technologies entrepreneur was instrumental in bringing the lake’s condition to the notice of Bangalore Environment Trust (BET) and United Way, a non-profit organization that also works in the environment sector. "It’s a joint effort," says Das, who’s also heads the TiE Clean Tech Special Interest Group in Bangalore. He thinks while bringing the lake into BBMP’s revival radar has been possible thanks to their team’s collective effort, it’s time more people in the neighbourhood got involved. "We need to have a citizen’s watch group for the lake," he says, stressing the need for more volunteers especially at the planning stage.
The past couple of months have seen work on restoring the lake on in full swing. A fenced boundary has been put up, the lake bed cleared and deepened. The sides have been raised to form a walkway. In the earlier days during the monsoon, the rain water would flow naturally into the lake, saving the adjoining roads from flooding. The encroachment in the last few years had seen water inlets being blocked with parts of the area being flooded. In other words, an unblocked and cleared lake is important to stop the rainwater from seeping into the neighbourhood.
Usha and the others think they need to make people aware of this – the vital role Puttenahalli Lake plays in rejuvenating the water table in the area. Getting people aware is the main agenda behind the Earth Day celebrations planned by the Save our Lake group on April 24 in South City.
Earth Day celebrations.
Sat, April 24, 3.30 pm at L & T South City.
Includes Children’s program (songs, face painting, mehendi) etc. Visiting the Lake, Movie screening (The Story of Bottled Water, Age of the Stupid and Exhibition (energy, water, transportation, waste, foods)
Along with presentations and talks by members of BET, LDA and BBMP and in collaboration with Sugruha, the South City Apartment Owner’s Association, the team plans to emphasize the importance of conserving precious water bodies and community volunteering.
Residents of neighbouring complexes and layouts are also invited. Residents of Lakshmi Layout, Brigade Millennium and Seven Oaks apartments have already come forward to participate.
Though still in the planning stage, the team has met architects, the Chief Engineer and other BBMP officials and expect the lake to be hopefully excavated, de-silted and ready by this monsoon.
Plans are on for a walking track, lighting, two access gates monitored by security guards and planting trees that would beautify the area and attract birds. As Das says, this is where volunteers are required to ensure the lake remains protected and the water inlets do not get clogged. While the team’s efforts have been lauded even by BET, they still have a long way to go and need as many helping hands as they can get. Usha was thrilled when she spotted diggers and levelers clearing up the lake site this February. "We cannot create a new lake in the city but at least we can take care of what exists?", she asks. We do hope we can.