Reviving a lake

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Hema Bapat: “When I began the Sustainable Living course in Bhoomi, little did I imagine that I would get so committed to reviving the Hado Siddhapura Lake. It may be a long journey, but with so many people who are suppporting me, it seems possible for an ordinary person like me.”

There was a time when the high rise buildings and the illuminated malls used to attract and impress me. I was a typical city dweller, happy and proud about its huge infrastructure.

But very soon after moving around the streets of Bangalore I realized the truth- about the price the city was paying for it’s development. The garbage piles grew taller and larger than the multiplexes; the lakes were hosting sewage and trash. It all started bothering me and I wished to do something positive beyond just being unhappy about what I saw.

After a long debate with my eco- conscience, I finally decided it’s time to face the reality and explore what I could do. I needed to learn - I needed more understanding, more skills, people to work with and most of all a sense of direction. That is when I joined Bhoomi’s course on ‘Science and Management in Sustainable living’.

In the beginning I had no clarity about what what I would do at the end of the course. But I had a strong intuition that I will be on right track and will definitely make a difference to the place I lived in. I am more of a practical down to earth person, unlike some of my fellow students who were more into intellectual, adventurous or poetic pursuits. As the course progressed I felt pulled to focussing on water or garbage management. The reasons being that these are the major issues cities were facing. Bhoomi offered me an internship program on ‘Water’. Which included a survey on water and garbage management in the surrounding areas, and exploring possibilities of revival of the Hadosiddapura lake, which has almost dried up and needed rejuvenation. Perhaps because it was a small lake of about 9 acres and outside the BBMP (city corporation) limits, it had not attracted much attention, unlike the bigger lakes of Bangalore.

This internship gave me an opportunity of interacting with people from different backgrounds. Many of them were excited with the idea of lake revival. And showed enthusiasm and support. I realized that most people are aware of their surroundings and also want to contribute through community efforts, but lacked initiative and motivation. The most interesting part was working with the government offices to obtain documents and information. The basic issue is not a matter of getting into action, desilting the lake, planting trees etc. It was to work along with the Government agencies were in charge of the lake. Being outside the city limits, the Panchayat, forest or minor irrigation departments could be involved. But initially none of these officials showed the least interest in supporting me. Language was a challenge, but I managed to persist with the help of anyone who could.

What has given me hope that the revival of this lake wll surely happen is the support I got from several water and lake activists around the city. We Bhoomi College students had visited the Jakkur Lake and met Dr. Annapurna Kamath, who spoke with passion about the community efforts to continue to monitor and look after the lake that they had rejuvenated. I also met Priya Ramasubban and Ramesh Sivaram who had worked on the Kaikondrahalli Lake and got it adopted by a citizens trust. I also heard about two ladies Niveditha Sunkad and Malavika, who single handedly had revived a lake in Rajarajeshwari nagar.

Shuba Ramachandran and others from Biome, Bhargavi who was earlier with Environment Support Group are some of the others who inspired me.

The time is also right for citizens to work on local lake projects in Bangalore. The National Green Tribunal slapping clean up orders on the BBMP regarding the dismal condition and burning waters of the Bellandur lake; the Supreme Court judgment on lakes and clear guidelines available about what constitutes lake encroachement - all these have created much more awareness and it is possibly easier now for a community to come together to take care of lakes in their vicinity. Certainly it also helps that this lake is located behind Bhoomi College and the Prakriya School - who will join me in my efforts.

My role then is to keep pushing every step of the way. Like making a dozen visits to Government offices to just get a survey map; organising Kere Habbas and other events on the lake shore, keeping up everyone’s interest in reviving the lake. I am sure now, that it will happen. It is happening!