In the month of January, people from far and near come together on the banks of lakes in Bengaluru for Kere Habba. They take part in workshops, food festivals, talks, walks, and exhibitions, and also get to shop eco-friendly products.
It is also an opportunity for them, the public to contribute for the maintenance of the lakes as the water bodies are revived and maintained as a community effort.
“Many of the open spaces have access restrictions, and are not well-maintained. There is a lack of variety of public open spaces such as natural areas, green areas, parks, plazas, or recreation areas,” says the Smart Cities project prepared for Coimbatore. Coimbatore, like Bengaluru, has several lakes. In order to create such public open spaces, Coimbatore Corporation has proposed to restore and beautify these water bodies in the city. This means the city will have more green open spaces that are accessible to people of all age groups. And, the development will not affect the environment around these lakes.
The plan is to set up walking tracks, watch towers, solar lights, boating facilities, and theme nature parks. There is also a proposal to build toilets and fences near the lakes. De-silting, bund strengthening, and de-weeding will take place in order to restore the lakes. Once the water bodies are restored, festivals similar to Kere Habba will prove to be a successful initiative to conserve lakes.
In this regard, Mohammed Saleem, chairman of the Environment Conservation Group, says that a balanced approach is needed. Though development is important, lake-fronts should be kept as natural as possible. “About 30 per cent of the area surrounding the lake should have facilities that will attract visitors and the remaining 70 per cent should be developed as an eco park to retain the natural environment with its aquatic life,” he says.
Along with the aquatic ecosystem, the lakes in the city are home to a lot of migratory birds. “Bird parks should be set up. This will attract tourists and also bring in revenue. Hawkers and vendors should be given space at the lake-fronts. But, they should ensure that the lake surroundings remain free of plastic and garbage,” says S.K. Babu from the Eco Green Unit, Coimbatore. Once the lakes are rejuvenated, they must be kept clean and free of water hyacinth. This requires complete diversion and treatment of all sewage and effluents. Fishermen are permitted to use some of the lakes and once the water bodies are revived, all can be opened up for fishing. “Lakes belong to everyone and we encourage planned human activities along the banks. Interaction with the lakes increases the sense of ownership among the citizens and ensures its upkeep in the long run,” an official from Siruthuli says.
Balakrishnan, a driving instructor who has been a resident of the city for 13 years, believes that the pleasant environment of the lakes can be restored by making lake-fronts encroachment-free and planting varieties that will keep the water bodies clean.