In 2008, the Kaikondrahalli Lake was an inaccessible piece of marshy land with barely any water. Today, the lake spread over 48 acres has become a thriving eco-system with diverse ecological biodiversity and is a home to several species of birds.
All this because of active involvement of the residents and interest groups along with officials of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), who facilitated the rejuvenation process.
Now, close to 300 visitors visit the lake everyday. They include not only morning walkers but also traditional users like the cowherds, who collect cattlefeed. However, the transition was not a cakewalk.
Talking about how it all began, Priya Ramasubban, a documentary film-maker, who lives close to the lake, says she launched the rejuvenation work by approaching students, whom she wanted to enlist as volunteers. “Soon I began meeting more like-minded people who were interested in the endeavour”.
Gradually, more residents joined and engaged in a dialogue with the BBMP to rejuvenate the lake. They ran around various government offices and within a few months became a link with various government bodies to facilitate the rejuvenation process. “We also got a group of experts consisting of architects, ornithologists, environmentalists and water experts to help us. We did not go to the government agencies to complain, but to be part of a constructive solution. All this because, we wanted a universally accessible lake.”
The group of concerned citizens has now evolved into a full-fledged trust that has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the civic body to maintain the lake.
Priya’s is just one of the 40 groups in the city who are striving to save lakes in the city. Even as the government is grappling to tackle the water shortage, these citizens are acting as a “watchdogs” pressuring the government save the water bodies that can be a source of water.
While Kavita Arora, who started the save the Varthur lake campaign, said the group was formed as the residents were tired of waiting for the government to act, Usha Rajagopalan of the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust said that they aim to promote a sense of ownership about the neighbourhood. “We have planted 320 plants and several shrubs around Puttenahalli Lake. The place, which was an apology of lake, is now a water body bustling with activity.”
All these groups now regularly talk to each other on one platform ‘Save Bangalore Lakes’. Arbind Kumar Gupta, who mobilised various lake groups said, “Many passionate individuals have come together to save the lakes in the city, but some, however, lack technical knowledge.
Mr. Gupta says that tackling encroachments is a “major task” for these groups. For, it is up to the civic authorities to tackle the problem. But, the groups have been using Right to Information, Public Interest Litigations and mobilising signature campaigns, to bring to life the dying water bodies.