A water body in the care of the Delhi Development Authority that was thriving last year is now going to seed. Why?

Sixteen months ago, on June 16, 2012, to be exact, this column had done something it rarely does; it had commended the work being done by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in looking after a lake. The lake is located inside a park near Kishangarh. The lake was clean, it did not stink, it was not a breeding ground for mosquitoes and it was teeming with fish. All this prompted one to commend the DDA because it was a job done well, and credit must be given where it is due.

The upkeep of the lake and the fact that it was teeming with aquatic life, especially with catfish was greatly appreciated, especially since it was such a pleasant contrast to the state of the Neela Hauz and of the old pond inside Kishangarh. The former was left to perish even as a spanking new bridge was being built because Delhi was then going through the last throes of ‘spruce up the city before the Commonwealth Games syndrome’ and the latter had been destroyed thanks to the greed of builders and the connivance of those who should have stopped them. The buildings that had sprung up all around the pond had effectively blocked all channels that used to replenish the water of the kund during the monsoons.

So, out of the three water bodies in Kishangarh, one had been killed; the other was virtually counting its days, while the third one seemed to be thriving.

The article, that talked about the lake that could be approached through Kishangarh, through Vasant Kunj A block or through Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan Marg that connects Aruna Asif Ali Marg to Andheria Mode, was read online many months later by a researcher working on the water bodies of Delhi. The researcher contacted me for directions and eventually visited the lake. What the researcher saw and reported to me was heart breaking. It was hard to believe, but I could not visit the lake again for a few months. Writing this string of pieces on the city’s water bodies, I remembered the lake and went to check it out. I am sorry to say that the researcher was right. Perhaps, I had been too hasty in giving good marks to the DDA.

Enquiries with the guards posted at the DDA Park revealed a strange story. The fish that I had seen on my last visit had been reared by a DDA contractor who had been allotted the lake so that he may breed fish in it, to be harvested and sold. As his contract was about to run its course, the contractor netted all the remaining fish and left. As long as the contract was in force, his staff continued to remove weeds from the lake, they also prevented local louts from throwing in plastic, thermocol, empty beer cans, bottles, potato chip wrappers and other detritus that marks our rapidly advancing consumerist civilisation.

So all the positives that I saw on my last visit had been caused not by any concern on the part of the DDA for the environment, but were prompted by a very basic human trait -- unadulterated greed! The DDA was only trying to exploit the lake for what it could yield. The fish kept the water clean by eating up all the algae. The waters being clean and mosquito free was only a by-product of DDA trying to make some more money.

The lake has, in the interregnum, gone to seed. It is filled with algae and bits of floating thermocol. There are a few ducks which leads one to believe that it might still be sustaining a few fish, but neither the surviving fish nor the ducks are up to the task of cleaning the lake.

Till a new contractor arrives and cleans the lake of its flotsam and jetsam, there seems little hope for the once beautiful water body. If DDA is not able to find a contractor who is prepared to shell out the kind of money that DDA thinks it deserves, the lake will continue to suffer, perhaps even die a slow death. Cleaning up the environs of the lake and preventing lumpens from throwing trash is obviously not part of the duty of the guards posted at the Park.

A small depression where sewage and filthy water have accumulated is playing host to countless mosquitoes and many birds that are attracted by decomposing organic material. All this can go on while people continue to suffer from and die of dengue. Is anyone answerable in this city, I often wonder. Don’t you?


Left to perishJune 16, 2012