They are a small informal group coming together to save three lakes and call themselves Friends of the Lakes.

The group is a motley bunch of enthusiastic young people and wise, old stalwarts who have seen it all and they have one purpose in coming together — to save three lakes which are in the neighbourhood. They meet every Sunday and go around the lakes cleaning them up of rubbish and persuading morning walkers to become a part of the exercise. The area corporators, and there are two of them, have joined in enthusiastically and now lead the initiative. Discussions are sharp and the moot question is how can the lakes be protected from encroachment, be kept away from sewage water and be full. The energy is high and the mind positive.

The group of youngsters are volunteering and learning about urban issues confronting the city. They have come, albeit late, to the sewage treatment plant and for the first time are figuring out where the water they use in their homes ends up and what is needed to clean it. Questions fly in the air and small group discussions take place. Cameras click and the flying foam is of particular interest to capture. They then see a wetland with its rich bio-diversity and its role in polishing treated wastewater and finally relax on the granite steps at the bottom of a large well which is full of water, a water heritage structure.

Across towns and cities all over India groups are coming together to help revive their city’s lakes and protect them. In Mysore, Dindigul, Erode, Hyderabad, Chennai, Coimbatore and many other towns one can see this movement of citizens getting together with authorities and saying “let us get things moving.”

Challenges ahead

It is time that authorities noticed it and stepped in perhaps with the help of NGOs, perhaps with the help of academia and organise water walks in their towns and cities regularly to make water literate an increasingly interested population. Citizens need to see the challenges ahead in the water front and on the wastewater front and an army of volunteers and professionally engaged people are needed to address the challenge. Bangalore city, for example, will have 25 wastewater treatment plants one of which converts sewage into potable water. Why should these places not be open to the public for guided tours albeit at certain times?

If you learn for example what NOT to put down the sewage line and the kitchen sink you will have done the authorities a big help. No used oil, no personal hygiene products into the toilets and as the famous words go, nothing into the underground lines but Numbers 1 and 2 and soap and water, will be a big help to the environment at large and to waste-water treatment .

It may look simple s but people engagement is the key to water wisdom and the moment is now.