Lake revival: For CSR to work, public participation is equally vital

Doddabommasandra lake   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, which is now the custodian of 207 lakes, needs ₹1,253 crore for their maintenance and rejuvenation. To date, the civic body has developed around 75 lakes, and the rejuvenation of another 20 is currently in progress. Another 55 lakes are yet to be developed.

However, plagued by lack of funds and staff, the civic body is increasingly looking at corporate funding and CSR as an option. “A single body cannot revive all the lakes in the city, due to the financial and staff limitations,” said a senior civic official.

A majority of lake activists, officials and citizens believe the only way ahead for the rejuvenation of Bengaluru’s water bodies is through collaborative efforts between agencies, residents’ welfare associations and the public. However, many RWAs fear the process will not be transparent and they will be kept out of the process.

A Karnataka Tank Conservation and Development Authority (KTCDA) official said that since each lake in the city is different, they have unique advantages and problems. “Hence, rejuvenation projects should not be generalised. Also, many lakes are inter-connected and hence, rejuvenation should begin with upstream lakes.

Companies coming forward to fund rejuvenation should also look into such details,” said the KTCDA official. “If we can show a few success stories, more corporates will come up for funding or restoration of other lakes.”

V. Ramaprasad, co-founder and convenor of Friends of Lakes, said that the government and the BBMP with the KTCDA should prepare robust guidelines to ensure that they are the custodians of the lake. “Corporates coming up for restoration of lakes should not concentrate on beautification alone. A tripartite agreement between the civic body, locals and the private agency should be signed. It should not become a civil engineering project,” said V. Ramaprasad.

STP at Doddabommasandra lake

Barring a few, most of the lakes in the city do not have sewage treatment plants (STPs). To fill this gap, the Bharat Electronics Limited, a public sector undertaking, is setting up a 10 MLD STP at the 124-acre Doddabommasandra lake under its CSR programme.

As rainfall is the only source of water, BEL plans to restore the lake with treated water. Such a plant will ensure reduction of sewage into the lake, recharge groundwater in and around the lake, and provide a conducive atmosphere for the enrichment of flora and fauna, said officials.

According to Mr. Ramaprasad, the primary rule for resuscitating a lake is to ensure good quality water and a rich biodiversity. “Authorities are just involved in beautification of lakes as they see it as a civil engineering project. At such a juncture, setting up an STP in the lake is a game-changing move ,” he said.

A partnership at Jakkur lake

The story of the revival of 160-acre Jakkur lake has a happy ending. The citizen group Jal Poshan signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the BBMP for the maintenance of the lake. What initially began as a weekly clean-up drive took the shape of a crowd-funding and then a productive CSR initiative. For their collaborative approach, Jal Poshan, in 2019, won second prize for ‘promotion of citizen and State action for water conservation’ by National Water Mission for the revival of the lake.

Annapurna Kamat of Jal Poshan said collaboration was the key to success. “The core rejuvenation was done by the BBMP and BDA. There is an STP built by the BWSSB. We have crowd-funded a few projects and have got CSR funding for other eco-friendly activities in the lake area,” she said.

A second chance for Hebbagodi lake

In 2018, Biocon Foundation revived the 35-acre Hebbagodi lake near Electronics City, and also built a children’s park, walkways for recreational activities and a drinking facility with RO technology.

Nandeesh Reddy, an engineer in Biocon, who was involved in the rejuvenation project, said that a few miscreants have broken parts of the fence twice. “We repaired it twice and it is unfortunate. We are now planning to fix surveillance cameras. The lake is receiving more sewage than expected which is also worrying,” he said.

According to a senior KTCDA official, there is an inlet that is still letting sewage into it. “Locals and other government agencies should work with people who revive lakes. Otherwise, there is no point in such projects,” the official said and added

Ramani, who lives in the area, stressed on the need to maintain the lake. “I have lived here for 35 years and there was a time when we could even drink the lake water. Due to unplanned urbanization, the lake got contaminated. Now, with CSR funding, the lake has been revived. But it is not what it was three decades ago,” she said.

(With inputs from Ramakrishnan and Krishan Roy)

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 12:32:47 AM |

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