Barely anyone remembers the Chalaghatta tank, which is now the Karnataka Golf Association’s golf course

Residents of Vignananagar found it absurd to even talk about the Doddanakundi lake because for them, the water body holds no particular significance today. In fact, they can barely recall even having seen a ‘full-fledged lake’ in the area.

Barely anyone remembers the Chalaghatta tank either, because it is now the Karnataka Golf Association’s golf course.

But, environmentalists aren’t that forgetful. They recall that areas around Domlur were once home to many lakes connected by a man-made water canal.

Impervious construction

“Many lakes in this area have been converted into other structures, and that is one of the reasons for frequent flooding and water-logging here,” said Vinay Baindur, a researcher.

“The manner in which structures have been built also matters. A large part of the area is cemented, through which rainwater cannot seep in and so, ends up flowing to low lying areas and flooding them,” added M.B. Krishna, an ornithologist.

“Despite the Doddanakundi lake being so close to our housing layout, ground water is not recharged and so, there is severe water shortage,” said a member of the Vignananagar residents’ welfare association.

Dumped

The lakes themselves, have, however, not disappeared from the contours of the map. “Construction rubble and waste are often dumped on the dried up lakebed,” Krishna pointed out.

Roshni Nuggehalli works with an NGO, whose office is located right on the banks of the Vibhutipura lake. “The lake bed is conveniently used as a garbage dumping site, we are trying to raise some awareness around and stop this dumping,” she said.

Things were not always this bad. Residents acknowledge that as recently as four years ago, there was some amount of fishing activity in the Doddanakundi lake. “We cannot use the water from this lake. It is so polluted that even fishing has come to a standstill here,” said Shanthi who resides close to the lake.

Strong prescription

The fate of lakes in and around the old Airport Road area is only one such example in a city replete with such cases. A report compiled by Ramachandra T.V., Bharath H. Aithal and Uttam Kumar titled ‘Conservation of wetlands to mitigate urban floods’ argues, “Disappearance of water bodies or sharp decline in the number of water bodies in Bangalore is mainly because of intense urbanisation and urban sprawl.”

Old Airport Road has undergone more than rapid urbanisation, from being an area of ragi fields with a lone public sector company in the middle, to a densely populated area drawing young workers by the horde.

Reclaiming lakes for other activities in the name of development, researchers believe, has affected the urban ecology in many ways. “Analyses of Bellandur and Ulsoor drainage network showed that the network is lost owing to conversion of Chalaghatta tank into a golf course,” the report quoted earlier says. “Most of the lakes are sewage fed and face the crisis of quality and spatial extent due to encroachment,” opined Ramachandra, researcher at the Centre for Ecological Studies.

Krishna’s solution to this problem may seem harsh, though possible in current circumstances. “A buffer area should be reserved around any lake,” he said. “For big lakes, at least up to 250 metres around it, no activity should be permitted. Further, the sloping shoreline of the lake should be maintained. That is the only way the vegetation and the lake itself would be able to survive,” he concluded.

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