BENGALURU: For eight years, hundreds of residents and several organisations fought to save the 82 acre Sarakki lake, which was almost dead. After Bengaluru witnessed fairly good showers in the last 15 days, water started filling the lake giving people some hope.The lake once used to house thousands of birds (Saavira Hakki , which later became ‘Sarakki’). Radamma, a resident of Jaraganahalli, said the lake used to be very big. It was surrounded by mango groves and agriculture lands. Water from the lake was used for cultivation. Cattle used to drink water here and the lake was full of life.
But in the last 12 years, with many apartments and residential buildings coming up, the water body almost died. Worse, even as the lake area was on the verge of death when several encroachments started taking place. In 2012, the size of lake started shrinking due to the encroachments. That’s when Sarakki Lake Area Improvement Trust (SLAIT) was formed by like-minded people who were determined to restore the lake’s lost glory.
On their demand, a survey was conducted and over 200 encroachments were found. SLAIT members then filed a public interest litigation (PIL) before the Karnataka High Court, which in turn directed Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner to remove the encroachments. In April 2015, the DC and his officials conducted a massive encroachment clearance drive and razed structures built on the lake bed, including 170 houses, 18 commercial complexes, a school and a few apartments. The cost of the encroached land was estimated to be Rs 2,000 crore. But the story did not end there.
After the encroachment removal, between 2015 and 2016, the responsibility of who would take care of the lake changed at least four times -- from Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) to BBMP and vice versa. Finally, in 2016, the lake was handed over to the BBMP. In 2017, the Palike called for tenders from contractors to remove weed and fence the lake area. BBMP finally took up works of removing weed in 2018 and completed it in 2019 January.
According to Karnataka State Natural Disaster Management Centre (KSNDMC), in May 2019, Bengaluru South (Sarakki lake is part of South Bengaluru) received 137 mm of rain as against 110 mm.
“The BBMP completed removing weed and other work much before these showers, which worked favourably for the lake. The lake started filling up,’’ said Shambulinga R V, resident of Sarakki.
A contract worker said just a few weeks ago it was an open land, and children were playing there. Now, they are building bridge-like structure, and the excess water from this lake will flow to the storm water drain that will go to Puttenahalli lake.
Raghu Bhat, a priest at Shanishwara Temple next to the lake bed, said that earlier there were many birds and fish. “Once upon a time elephants would come from Bannerghatta to drink water here, but over a period of time the lake almost died. Now after many years, we are seeing at least a few birds returning,’’ he added Besides, the coming monsoons has raised the hopes of these lake crusaders to further fill up the lake and bring back its lost pristine glory.