One has to visit Karanji Lake adjacent to the Mysore zoo to see what dedicated efforts at reviving a water body can result in, says water activist S. Vishwanath

The city of Mysore has always been known to be amongst the greener and better planned cities of India. In the recent past a concerted effort led by the responsible institutions and civil society has resulted in an improvement of many of the water bodies of the city.

One has to visit Karanji Lake adjacent to the Mysore zoo to see what dedicated efforts at reviving a water body can result in.

The link between the catchment and the lake has been restored by clearing unauthorised occupation of the link channels. Part of the Chamundi hills which stands sentinel over Mysore, forms the major watershed from where the lake gets its water. This has now been afforested to protect its character. The channels have been cleaned and encroachments removed.

Entry points to the lake also see some sewage flowing in. Small wetlands have been created to improve the water quality. These absorb the nutrients and when regularly harvested also ensure lesser pollution of the lake. Floating bamboo-based grass clumps with their roots taking in nutrients from the waters are an innovative way of cleaning the lake waters.

The island on the lake is host to many birds, and a butterfly park has been created. Signages are everywhere and it is refreshing to see one saying ‘Beware of crocodiles.’ Not a regular sign you will see in your regular urban lake. A fountain blasts water into the air and creates the right ambience. Most importantly, the space is open for all citizens to come in and enjoy. A bit of peace and tranquility in a bustling city.

Many of our urban areas can learn from this revitalisation effort. The more we focus on water bodies the better it is for the entire ecosystem. A side effect is the recharge of our groundwater and thus additional supply for the city.

While the hard infrastructure like pipes, pumps and tanks are seen as ways of delivering water to a city there is also a softer sector which does almost the exact same thing but is usually not in focus. Urban lakes are part of the green infrastructure and attention to them will improve the overall habitat and ecology. That is water wisdom.