Konanakunte, once a far-off village, is engulfed by an ever-expanding J.P. Nagar
Like many villages that have been swallowed up by Bangalore city, Konanakunte is an area going through rapid transition. Soaring land prices, construction of apartment blocks, commercial buildings, and infrastructure projects such as the metro rail have brought looming concrete structures to an area once marked by fields and orchards. Located near Konanakunte Cross off Kanakapura Road, what was once a far-off village is now inextricably a part of the city, engulfed by an ever-expanding J.P. Nagar.
The name Konanakunte — ‘buffalo’s pond’ — conjures up images of an idyllic setting, a sleepy town with swaying trees and frolicking children, and this is exactly how some of the area’s older residents remember it. “There used to be vineyards and farms growing avarekai and ragi,” says Joyce Prakash, a resident of Bank Colony since 1983. “Earlier, Chunchugatta Main Road had farms on either side. Now, it feels like being on Commercial Street,” she says.
“Initially, we had to wait about an hour for a bus into town. People used to sit with their goats and sheep on top of the bus, as there was no other way to transport them. Those were the days,” Joyce laughs. “We never thought the economy would develop like this. We enjoyed the greenery, the open space and the absence of pollution. Now there’s no trace of the ‘kunte’ to which we used to go to look at the birds — only sites. So many of the village residents have sold their land.”
The large trees along Kanakapura Road — sometimes referred to by residents as ‘narakapura road’ because of the mess that it now lies in — have been sacrificed to the metro project, and many of the birds that were once a common sight in the area aren’t easily spotted, according to Joyce. However, patches in the Konanakunte region can be still be found providing a glimpse of what the area may have been like, and what it might still be.
The best example of this is the Chunchugatta lake, the largest of the water bodies in the vicinity. Down the lanes off Chunchugatta Main Road, you’ll find a large jewel concealed amidst high shrubs and piles of rotting food and shredded plastic. Towering white blocks of flats that dominate the skyline are reflected in its glittering surface, which lights up in the evening sun despite the trash that spills into a corner of it.
“The path around the lake used to be much wider,” says Kumar, who lives in a house adjacent to the lake. Although he says the lake was fenced off to prevent people from throwing garbage there, a cursory glance is enough to reveal that this hasn’t been an effective deterrent.
“The first step is of course to clean up the lake, and further dumping has to be stopped,” says Deepa Mohan, a wildlife enthusiast who has identified and documented the presence of several birds, butterflies and plants at the Chunchugatta lake.
Deepa has been involved in a project to save the nearby Puttenahalli lake, and says since the lake was cleaned up, the bird life there has been “amazing”, with even rare varieties beginning to visit it. This can be repeated at Chunchugatta lake, she says.
N.R. Shashidhar, a resident of Srinidhi Layout in Konanakunte, says he chose to live there as it was a peaceful, green area. Nevertheless, he looks forward to the extension of the metro services to Konanakunte and the setting up of shopping malls in the area, because of the opportunities for recreation that they hold.
Chandan V., who lives in Suprajanagar, works for a software company and travels 32 km to Whitefield everyday. He thinks the metro will make his life much easier once it begins to operate from Konanakunte. Chandan speaks with an obvious passion for his locality and its greenery, and talks of the vineyards that can still be found and the sweetness of the grapes grown there. But is there room for both the vineyards as well as development in Konanakunte? “I doubt [it],” he says. “Those farmers will sell [the land] when they get an offer they cannot refuse.”