BENGALURU: True corporate social responsibility (CSR) doesn’t require money. It’s all about creating awareness and getting people involved,” says Anand Malligavad, head of Sansera Foundation’s corporate projects, who has single-handedly rejuvenated the Kyalasanahalli lake.
Developing a lake takes months, maybe years, but the CSR arm of city-based company, Sansera Engineering, has managed to give this lake, which is in Bommasandra, a makeover in just 45 days. This incredible feat started on April 20, and should be completed very soon, says Anand, who has become something of a celebrity for the villagers in nearby villages.
Sansera was founded by S Sekhar Vasan, and they are involved in a lot of CSR activities, mainly focusing on education and the environment. This year, apart from working on the lake, they renovated about 15-20 schools in the Anekal Taluk.
The lake story
Anand says that the crux of their environment work is to improve their surroundings. That’s how the idea to improve the Kyalasanahalli lake, right behind their plant, came about. Anand would walk by the lake, which had been reduced to a pond in the last few decades, and he proposed bringing it back to its original glory.
Over years, what used to be a 36-acre lake, had been reduced to a shallow pond, mainly because almost 15 acres were encroached upon by villagers, who had been using that land for cultivation and to graze cattle.
For eight months, Anand researched and learnt all he could on lakes via various studies and videos. The next step was to get the villagers on board. “I visited about 200 families, went door to door and spoke to everyone – from the youngest to the oldest – and tried getting them to understand the value of preserving the lake.”
Anand says that the villagers’ inputs were extremely valuable, as they have a better understanding of nature and how to conserve it than anyone living in cities. “A survey was done on April 15 by the government and they chalked out boundaries for us. It was then that we found out how much land was being encroached. On April 20, we did a bhumi pooja, and from then on the process has been speedy,” says Anand.
There was only about 2-3 feet of water in a little part of the lake before the project started, and that’s how it’s been for the past few decades because of poor rains, silt and a lack of open storm water drains. Now, Sansera has excavated around 3,40,000 cubic metres of soil from the lake via desilting, and they plan to let it fill up with rain water from the coming monsoons and from the storm water drains, which they have now unclogged.
Apart from this, Sansera has also created 5 islands, on which they have planted various varieties of fruit-bearing and flowering saplings, which they hope will bring in birds and small mammals. They have also carved out a 3-km road around the lake.
“We have increased the lake’s capacity by 25 times, which will help the villagers with agriculture as well,” says Anand. An earlier story by Bengaluru Express told readers about how SayTrees, a local NGO, had planted 5,500 saplings in Bommasandra. These saplings now surround the lake, and include medicinal and local varieties, too. They have also demarcated an area for jogging around the lake and will be erecting benches.
Anand says that they got lucky with this lake because it is unpolluted. The case with a lot of lakes in the city is that they are heavily polluted with industrial waste, but despite being very close to big plants, like of a pharmaceutical company, the water is clear and marine life still thrives in it.
The budget for this project is `1 crore, and Anand says that this is very small one, as when the government has tried to develop other lakes in the city, the budget has been over `10 crore.
Anand says that they didn’t ask for any specific permission to work on the lake. They intimated the Taluk Municipality Committee (TMC) on their plans, who then sent a letter to the local tahsildar, who then sent a letter to the district commissioner to get the area surveyed. The plan got approved because in the Anekal district, Sansera’s work is already known and appreciated. Also, about a year ago, the Lake Development Authority had a seminar on bringing back lakes, where Anand submitted a memorandum of interest to work on this lake, and also told them that they will submit a detailed project report soon.
“There is no external interference in this process from politicians. I haven’t taken any advice from experts or employed contractors,” he says.
People from the Kyalasanahalli village say that they are glad that the rejuvenation of the lake is being done by a private company. “This whole area was ugly – the lake was filled with silt and weeds. So when Anand came and spoke to us, we were very willing to come on board, as the government hasn’t bothered to rejuvenate it,” says KY Sheshappa, a landlord from Kyalasanahalli village.