Sirsi taluk has been reeling under acute water shortage for a long time now. In order to overcome this problem, a couple of responsible citizens in the area took up rejuvenation of the Ane Honda Tank in the heart of Sirsi. What they did not envisage was that it would become a mass movement. The successful rejuvenation of the tank has given a much-needed impetus to this participatory movement.
Various tanks in Sirsi are being restored after they were contaminated with pollutants, plastic and other material. The rejuvenation is being carried out under the aegis of Sirsi Jeevajala Karyapade, an association of like-minded people working towards restoring waterbodies in the area. As of now, at least nine such tanks have been restored and this has helped in recharging the groundwater.
Need of the hour
With scanty rainfall, and the water supply affected, the people had started depending on water tankers and this served as a wake-up call to them. Many of them felt that reviving the lakes would solve the problem. A few like-minded people headed by environmentalist Shivananda Kalave proposed the rejuvenation of lakes to the assistant commissioner of Sirsi, Raju Mogaveera. He met with the citizens and the special task force, Jeevajala Karyapade, was formed. The group comprised industrialists, officials and the common people of Sirsi. Srinivasa Hebbar, an entrepreneur, was elected as the president and the group began the task of reviving the Ane Honda Tank, that is spread over half an acre.
Soon, the de-silting work began and the group even managed to collect four lakhs with the help of some local organisations and the general public. Within 15 days, about 20 feet deep silt was removed and shifted to fill up the low lying area near Raghavendra Math. “Though it was April, there was eight feet water in the tank once the de-silting work was completed. The revival of the tank has ensured that the birds and animals of the surrounding areas have a water source. Most importantly the water level in the wells of the area had greatly improved because of the rejuvenated tank,” says Hebbar.
Their next project was the huge Rayappana Kere on Banavasi road spread over three-and-a-half acres of land. In fact, the tank had dried up and it used to be a playground for the locals on one side, and on the other side was a garbage dumping site. The rejuvenation process cost about 40 lakhs. The task force raised some amount for the same and also succeeded in removing illegal encroachments in the area. The responsibility of maintaining cleanliness around the lake has been taken up by the people of the locality.
After this, the task force went on to revive other tanks such as Shankara Honda near Maha Ganapathi Temple, Bellakki Kere, Haladotha Kere, Suprasanna Kere and so on. Hebbar says that carrying out the work at the Shankar Honda Tank was quite challenging. “People were not able to walk near this tank due to the stink emanating from the contaminated water. It was in a terrible condition.” But today, it has regained its past glory and has become a tourist hotspot. “After cleaning, we have beautified the surrounding area of the lake to make it more attractive and people-friendly. We also constructed bathrooms for the devotees and made arrangements for washing clothes to avoid contamination. Every day, 30 to 40 children visit the lake to enjoy the boating facility.” Hebbar says.
This initiative is rightly called the people’s movement because the locals have contributed immensely to the cause. Manju Moger, an auto driver, has been at the forefront of the movement since the inception of the task force. “I was always interested in social work since the age of 18 and have been active in it trying to render whatever little help I can. This is a huge movement which has been replicated elsewhere and I am really happy to be part of it,” says Manju. While environmentalist Shivananda Kalave says, “The local people of Sirsi have willingly contributed, participated and have witnessed the transformation that took place here. That apart, they are aware of the costs of cleaning the tanks and as a result, they are careful to not allow any more damage.’’