Even with a lake in their backyard, taps run dry for Begur residents

A cool breeze blows by Begur lake on a warm summer's day, causing the fluttering of the bed of lotuses comfortably ensconced in a corner of the lake. On the bank, residents wash their clothes, as buffaloes sit in the water, enjoying much needed respite from the sweltering heat.

Begur lake is one of the oldest in Bangalore. Constructed by the Ganga dynasty in the 10th century, it irrigated large tracts of land in 24 surrounding villages.

But like many other lakes in the city, urbanisation, industrialisation and encroachment has left it in severe danger. We are losing this lake too, warns H.S. Gopal Rao, historian and the former general secretary of the Karnataka Itihasa Academy.

The lake has shrunk considerably in my lifetime, says Lokesh G., a former panchayat member and resident of Begur. “Several layouts have come up over parts of the lake in the last 10 years because of encroachment.”

Less than a few metres from the lake stand many high-rise residential apartments, with more being constructed.

On the cards is a road-widening project to connect Hosur Road to Bannerghatta Road; this poses yet another threat to the water body.

Plans for development

Residents in the area yearn for an open space, a place to walk and get some fresh air. The lake could still be just that: there are plans to make a walkway and a park around it. The local councillor Srinivas says he has been trying to develop the lake over the last two years, but the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike has not been forthcoming with funds.

Begur lake has a history of flooding. It has overflowed four times since 2000, and flooded the Wipro campus in Electronics City in 2007.

It is ironic that despite having the 138-hectare lake nearby, residents have to dig borewells as deep as 1,200 feet to get water. The existing ones are fast drying up too.

Residents of Begur say they have been dependent on water from tankers for five years now.

People are also to blame for that, says T. Vasudev, a resident and retired government employee. “We have covered everything with concrete and marble. Rainwater goes into the drain.”

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