Friday 16 November 2012

The vanishing lakes of Bangalore

I do not think there has ever been a Bangalorean or even a tourist who has not been to Majestic which houses the bus stand and the Railway Station. The area sees an influx of lakhs of people every day and it can be counted as the busiest place in Karnataka.
But did you know that the Kempegowda Bus terminus, that is the name of the bus stand, was once a beautiful lake called Dharmambudhi Lake. Today, all that reminds us of the lake is a road named Dharmambudhi.
Dharmambudhi was among the many lakes and wetlands in Bangalore that have fallen prey to the growing urbanization of Bangalore and its greed for land. What shocks people today is that it was the then civic authority which decided to breach a large number of tanks on the pretext of controlling and eradicating malaria.
So, we had tens of tanks breached and the land given over for development. The result is there for all to see today. The old water bodies are gone and what remains are a few spots of water. One of the best examples I can give in this context is the Sampangiramanagar Lake.
The lake was breached and the land given for construction of the stadium. Today, the lake is confined to a small Kalyani or pond at a corner. This is the very place where the Hasi Karaga is placed before the commencement of the Bangalore Karaga.       
Apart from this lake, the Koramangala lake was breached by the civic authorities and part of it handed over to the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI). A hockey stadium has come up at Akkithimanahalli near the Baldwin School.
The Krishna Flour Mills stands on Jakkarayanakere and Mysore Lamps which is now closed once was part of the Tumkur lake.
The Vijayanagar lake was breached and today the busy Vijayanagar Chord Road passes through it. Once of the newer layouts of Bangalore, Rajarajeshwari Nagar, was once Vijinipura lake.
The prestigious HBR Layout was once part of the beautiful Hennur lake. There are two KSRTC workshops on the erstwhile Sunkal lake.
The Byresandra tank is almost dry and there is threat of encroachment. The Hulimavu lake, though fenced, is unclean and badly needs attention. The Yediyur lake and Ulsoro lake is badly in need of a clean up.
The Ganeshas submerged in the Ulsoor lake is still floating around on Ulsoor lake. The Sankey Lake too needs immediate attention. The hebbal lake is a pale shadow of what it was once.
This shows that almost all the water bodies in Bangalore arte under threat. Unfortunately, neither the civic body nor the Government has been able to save them.
The Government decision to privatise some lakes has not found favour with environmentalists and old timers of  Bangalore, Some of them, including the Environment Support Group (ESG) have approached the Karnataka High Court against moves by the Lake Development Authority and the Government to hand over some lakes such as Agara to private entrepreneurs for development.     
Lakes and water bodies have always played an important part in the city of Bangalore. The then rulers of Bangalore, including the Wodeyars and the British and much before them Kempe Gowda, realized that Bangaloe would need as much water as possible and they went about building lakes and tanks.
If Kempe Gowda built Kempambudhi lake, the British built Sankey and Millers Tanks and the Wodeyars the Hesarghatta and TG Halli reservoirs. What have our politicians built after Independence. Not a single lake or water body.
On the other hand, the civic bodies and the Government have systematically presided over the death of these water bodies. A recent survey by the Indian Institute of Science has pointed out that there were 262 wet lands in Bangalore in 1962. By 2007, they had come down by 58 per cent.
This survey was conducted by the Energy and Wetland Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc. The survey says while the wetlands percentage dropped, the City’s built up area increased by by 466 percent between 1973- 2007.
The survey said there were 51 active wetlands in 1973. They had come down to just 17 by 2007 and almost all of these are now under threat. The lakes in greater Bangalore area also decreased from 159 to 93.
Both the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) have found the water bodies unfit for consumption and even activities such as fishing and boating.  
The Bruhut Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has come up with a Rs. 900 crores programme to save and protect the existing lakes and tanks. The plan was recently submitted to the Lok Adalat which has taken up the issue of the City’s diminishing lakes.
Though the Government and BBMP have announced steps to clean up the lakes, it may not be feasible in the long run. What is needed is a new water policy aimed at conserving the underground water table and simultaneously reviving the Hesarghatta and TG Halli lakes.
The course of the Arvakathi needs to be revived. Encroachments should be removed and afforestation programmes taken up at the source of the Arkavathy. The Vrushabavathi river should be totally cleaned up and this can be done by first ensuing that there is no flow of sewage into the river.
Another aspect that the Government should gibe immediate attention is to complete expeditiously complete the underground  rain water network and link then to the rivers and water bodies.
Chennai has made rain water harvesting compulsory. Make it compulsory here too with no exceptions. Supply treated water for lakes, gardens, factories and for industrial purposes. This would reduce the pressure on the Cauvery network and lead to greater levels of water conservation.
The health of the groundwater is linked to that of the surface water. The surface water in Bangalore is unhealthy and a recent study by the Pollution Control Board has shown high levels of  salt, nitrates and other toxins and pollutants in groundwater.
Some of the lakes I remembered that were converted into urban jungles are as follows:
Shoolay lake in Ashok Nagar changed to Football stadium
Challghata Lake behind old HAL Airport changed to Karnataka Golf Association
Koramangala lake changed to National Games Complex in Ejipura
Siddikatte Lake is KR Market
Karanji tank in Gandhi Bazar is gone and there is only a road named after it.
Kempambudhi built by Kempe Gowda is a septic tank
Nagashettihalli lake houses the Department of Space
Kadugondanahalli lake has made way for Ambedkar Medical College
Domlur lake is now part of the BDA layout
Millers Lake is home to many organisations such as Guru Nanak Bhavan, Badminton Stadium, Billards Stadium and Khadi Bhavan.
Subhashnagar is now a residential area
Kurubarahalli lake is a layout
Kodihalli lake is now named Kodihalli
Sinivaigalu lake changed to Residential layout
Marenahalli lake is now part of JP Nagar.
Shivanahalli lake has transformed into a playground and bus stand
Chenamma tank is now a burial ground in BSK. It is still called Chennamana Kere.
Putanahalli lake has almost disappeared in J.P. Nagar 6th Phase
Kamakshipalya Lake is a sports ground
Dasarahalli tank is now called Ambedkar Stadium.
There are many studies by the Forest Department, BDA, BBMP, BWSSB, State Government, Lake Development Authority and scientific and academic institutions. Almost all the studies are unanimous in their report that the lakes are dying and they need to be saved.  
One of Bangalore's best known adminiatrators, Lakshman Rau, has given a beautiful report on how to conserve the lakes and tanks of Bangalore. The authorities need to act fully on it. The ISRO has also done a study and it could be used to revive the water bodies.         

1 comment:

  1. Dear Samyuktha,
    This post is an eye opener to all of us. We should act immediately to conserve the remaining water bodies of Bangalore. Could you please provide us with the contact details of any person/authority who can help us with a solution to this problem