BENGALURU: All it takes is collective effort. A group of villagers, gram panchayat members, farmers, volunteers and water activists in Chipli-Lingadahalli village in Sagar taluk of Shivamogga district have come together to revive a centuries-old chain of inter-connected lakes. Their efforts step over the state government’s abject failure to rejuvenate the seven lakes which had sustained the lives of people in this region for centuries.
The community’s efforts are now showing results as far as solving the problem of drinking water and irrigation, besides recharging 15,000 open wells in surrounding villages, is concerned. The initiative involves raising money from the local people, tapping CSR funds and implementation and monitoring of the project by the people themselves with a hands-on approach.
The chain of seven lakes, built by Shivappa Nayaka of the Keladi dynasty in the mid-17th century, served the water needs of the people in the region. But after the construction of the Linganamakki Dam in 1964, these lakes had remained neglected. Sagar town now depends on the dam from where 71 lakh litres of water is pumped every day at a cost of `15 lakh per month.
This gross neglect of the water bodies led to massive deposition of silt as farmers and local civic bodies started dumping waste and encroaching upon them. A testimony to this is the fact that the 23-acre Ganapathi Kere, located in the heart of the town, is literally divided into two by the National Highway-206 with one portion of the dried lake being used by civic authorities to dump waste.
The citizens’ group’s work on reviving the two-acre Bangaramma Lake started in May 2017 with people contributing `10.5 lakh. But work came to a halt in 2018 due to shortage of funds.
But work came to a halt in 2018 due to shortage of funds. However, with Karnataka Bank headquarters in Mangaluru coming forward with `5 lakh from its CSR funds, work restarted in April this year and desilting work was completed in 24 days.
And the results are already showing. With Bangaramma tank filling up, it has now been attracting many wild animals from the nearby Sharavathi wildlife sanctuary. It was not an easy task for the people or volunteers, but they managed to lift 17,000 cubic metres of silt from Bangaramma Lake — the first of the water bodies where rejuvenation works were taken up. Akshara L V, a member of the Lingadahalli gram panchayat, says it was a challenging task to desilt the tank as the moisture content of the soil was high and the machinery used to often get stuck.
Environmentalist Akhilesh Chipli pointed out that that two lakes in this network, surrounded by hills on three sides,used to be perennial sources of water. But accumulation of silt had drastically reduced its storage capacity. “Thewater-holding capacity of this two-acre lake is about 20 million litres. If all the seven lakes are revived, it can meet the drinking water needs of Sagar town and the irrigation needs of arecanut and paddy farmers in 250 acres, besides recharging 15,000 open wells,” he stressed.
Volunteers involved in the initiative feel that it is better for people to take up such works on their own. Chipli says, “The quality of work done by the authorities was very bad. So it is better if people get involved in such works which directly affects their lives.”
After Bangaramma Lake rejuvenation, an estimate is being worked out for the 0.5-acre Aanesondalu
Lake. Ashoka, a farmer involved in the rejuvenation effort, says they may require `5-6 lakh. “Works on Hunasekatte Lake, which was revived by the government, has not been done properly and so we want to rejuvenate all the seven lakes through a public movement,” he added. Satish L V, vice-president of Shivamogga HOPCOMS, says, “In fact, with the revival of seven lakes, we can not only save the huge power bill for bringing water to Sagar town but also recharge the ground water in the surrounding villages.”
Chipli-Lingadahalli village is holding a thanksgiving function on May 5 and with the Karnataka Bank MD visiting the project site, the enthusiastic volunteers are hoping for another round of CSR funding to revive the remaining lakes in the land of the Keladi rulers.