Bad times again for Kukkarahalli Lake

PARADISE LOST? The Kukkarahalli Lake in Mysore  

Special Correspondent

MYSORE: Is Kukkarahalli Lake a case of paradise lost for the people of Mysore? The question assumes significance as the lake, which had emerged as a favourite place for thousands of morning walkers and whose conservation was reckoned to be a success story, is today a cesspool that has kept away a large section of the public.

Touted as a tourist destination and revived with funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at a cost of nearly Rs. 91 lakhs, the lake is in the

news again for the wrong reasons. Although the cosmetic work, entailing a large walkway and ornamental plants, is intact, the ecosystem is in danger, ostensibly due to lack of maintenance and fresh water inflow into the water body.

People who visit the lake often are aghast at its fate soon after heavy rainfall, when the water body should have been throbbing with life. The foreshore is full of pollutants and weed. The inflow of sewage has led to proliferation of algae, and naturalists point out that all is not well with the ecosystem as there has been a decline in the number of nestling birds. This indicates that despite cosmetic treatment, the lake is choked and gasping for a fresh lease of life.

Although environmentalists had pointed out that conservation should receive priority, the authorities opted for "lake development" and spent funds on expanding the pathway, which has ruined the bird habitat. They fenced the periphery but did little to ensure a steady inflow of fresh water into the lake by removing the encroachments along the feeder canal. A similar fate had befallen the Karanji Lake, and the zoo authorities removed encroachment on its feeder channels as a result of which the water body has emerged as a nature park and a destination in tourists' itinerary.

The maintenance of the Kukkarahalli Lake is vested with the University of Mysore, and it recently took up lake cleaning. But little thought was given to clearing encroachments to facilitate inflow of fresh water.

The lake has a meagre catchment area of 4.5 sq.km, but the Dewan Poornaiah Canal was nearly 22 kms long and contributed more than 50 per cent of fresh water flow into it. However, haphazard planning and encroachment have destroyed the feeder canal of the lake; any effort to revive the lake without restoring the feeder canal will be a meaningless exercise.

Apart from the Poornaiah Canal, the lake has three minor feeder canals that help augment fresh water inflow. But, in the absence of maintenance, storm water flow is impeded.

There are fresh encroachments on the feeder canal against which the Mysore City Corporation and the Mysore Urban Development Authority have not taken action.