Uttarahalli Lake Sees Revival Without Water
By Meera Bhardwaj | Published: 26th July 2014 10:16 AM |
by Meera Bhardwaj
Bangalore: Three years after a public-private-community initiative was launched to clean up the Uttarahalli lake, the important water body remains dry and smelly.
Despite the combined efforts, not a drop of rain water has reached the 13.5 acre lake as work on the storm water drains is still going on. A small trickle seen in the lake today is the treated sewage water, giving out a foul smell; the lake itself is overrun by weeds and a bushy outgrowth.
The stakeholders offer their own explanations for the state of affairs. Multiple visits to the lake showed some encouraging signs, though.
With Arehalli, AGS Layout, Ramanjaneya Nagar and Uttarahalli Main Road witnessing the construction of apartments over the past 15 years, the lake has become a victim of rapid urbanisation and encroachment.
Gradually, the lake had turned into a pool of muck and untreated sewage. However, in 2011, the BBMP came up with a plan for rejuvenation and invited the corporate sector to support the cause.
This is when the BBMP signed a memorandum with United Ways of Bangalore (UWBe), an NGO. Starting its Wake the Lake campaign, the UWBe along with Ingersoll Rand got involved in setting up a sewage treatment plant, planting of hundreds of saplings, and the laying of a cobbled walk around the lake.
Speaking to City Express, Swati Bhattacharya, vice president, Ingersoll Rand, said, “We have been associated with multiple lake-cleaning and plantation drives. Our employee-volunteers have taken part in them.”
According to Bhattacharya, over the past year, an increase in indigenous plants has improved the bio-diversity of the lake. To date, 600 saplings have been planted.
“We see chaotic parking of buses and trucks on the road adjacent to the lake, and we plan to put up a no-parking sign. We want to spread awareness among the residents about the importance of maintaining the cleanliness of the lake,” she told City Express.
Sewage water entering the lake was diverted in 2013 and now only treated water enters the lake, says the BBMP.
Earlier, the storm water inlets to Uttarahalli lake were blocked ‘erroneously’. The Sewage Treatment Plant became operational after some hiccups and treated water is slowly filling up the lake bed. “We moved into this area 15 years ago and the lake was pristine, attracting migratory birds. Locals could be seen fishing here. During the monsoons, the water used to overflow onto the main road. But alas! Today, the lake is dry,” said Sitaram, a concerned citizen.
Uttarahalli municipal councillor Ramesh Raju told City Express, “Now, 3-4 lakh litres of treated sewage are flowing into the lake. We were sanctioned `3.8 crore for the rejuvenation of the lake. About 50-60 per cent of the funds have been released, and we have taken up most of the works.”
Once the storm water drains are done, the water will definitely flow into the lake, he said.
Silt is another problem. On the charge that silt is being dumped back into the lake, a UWBe representative said, “We have not done anything to harm the lake. We have removed weeds, dry leaves and mud. The plants dry and get back into the earth through an organic process.”
In the first phase of reviving the lake, the local authorities desilted the lake, diverted sewage, created paths and fenced it. “In the second phase, we and our corporate partner have taken over maintenance of the lake, which includes enhancing the flora and fauna, keeping the lake secure, and actively engaging the neighbourhood in making it a community asset,” he said.
The lake has been completely fenced and the height of the fence has been increased from 4 to 6 feet. The cobbled walkway was repaired post-monsoon last year. Lights have been fixed every 100 metres along the walk, and are switched on from 7 pm-6 am daily.
A group called the Uttarahalli Magakere Walkers Association monitors the lake regularly. In the past few months, the association has managed to get the STP running for a longer duration.
Suresh, a regular walker, says, “It is now an ideal place for apartment residents and walkers and joggers. However, I wish the lake was not so waterless.” He warns that if residents don’t participate in the community initiative, the real estate mafia will grab the lake bed.
“Reviving the lake is an ongoing process and cannot happen overnight. We have seen a significant change in the attitude of people living around the lake. We are hopeful we will be able to transform the lake, provided the community is committed towards investing time and effort,” a stakeholder said.
Join the campaign
Want to help in the initiative to restore Uttarahalli lake? Visit firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Fence height increased
Cobbled walk repaired
Lights in place
300 saplings planted last month