500 walk to save Vibhutipura lake

The Vibhutipura lake near HAL airport which spans across 14 acres is slowly diminishing due to increasing encroachment over the last 5 years. This sort of encroachment seems to be systematic and starts with building debris dumped in the lake bed. Later, it is flattened and slums rise over it following which, building construction begins. People living nearby dump garbage while raw sewage flows into the lake from apartment complexes and individual houses.

Jobees Krishnan, a decade old resident observes, "The lake was full, with clean water 10 years ago; so clean that there were fish in the lake and fishermen in small boats used to fish in the lake".

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On 3rd November, a Saturday morning, we residents of various localities on the periphery of the Vibhutipura lake near HAL airport, assembled for a walkathon as part of the ‘Save the Vibhutipura Lake’ campaign. We aimed to increase awareness among the residents about the lake and its present condition, to show the government authorities that we all cared about the lake and to pressurize them to expedite the restoration work. The other objective was to announce the formation of a lake improvement trust comprising of citizens from all the surrounding areas. The trust plans to get actively involved in the restoration and future maintenance of the lake. "It is only in the last 5 years after many apartments have sprung up that lake is more polluted", said Dr. Hanifa, another resident of ten years.

More than 500 people living in L B Shastri Nagar, Vignana Nagar, Vibhutipura, Annasandra Palya, Veerabhadra Nagar, Basava Nagar and surrounding areas participated in the march. They included over 150 children aged between 10 and 16 years from 3 schools namely APSA Dream School in LBS Nagar, Indian Public School in Vignana Nagar and Vibhutipura Mutta School in Annasandra Palya. Rakesh, a student of the APSA school remarked, "The lake is a home for many many migratory birds. We should conserve the lake".

There were two groups of marchers (one starting from Uthkarsh Park in LBS Nagar and another starting from Vignana Nagar) who converged at the Vibhutipura Mutta school where a public meeting was held.

The MLA of KR Puram assembly constituency, N Nandiesha Reddy and the BBMP corporator Geeta Vivekananda were also present along with officials and engineers from BDA and other agencies. Here the citizens presented a petition with their demands regarding restoration of the lake along with more than 500 signatures to the authorities.

Reddy stated that the contract for the restoration work had already been awarded last month and promised that the work on restoration would be inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Karnataka before the end of November 2012. He instructed the BDA officials to involve the proposed citizens’ trust – Vibhutipura Kere Abhivruddhi Mattu Samrakshana Samiti (ViKAS) in all the work.

The MLA also spoke about the problem of encroachments on the lake of nearly 3 ½ acres and asked for people’s support in removing them. "It is high time that this Vibhutipura lake gets the attention of people, residents, officials and the MLA. Let us do something before the lake is eaten up by land sharks", added Ambareen, a member of VIKAS.

Arbind Gupta, a member of OneBengaluru – a platform for solving public problems in the city also addressed the gathering. He spoke about his experience in working for restoration of Arakere lake and his current work on bringing different citizen groups together on a common platform to focus and work unitedly on some of the key issues facing lakes in Bangalore.

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