Succour from the bottom

Succour from the bottom

Bangalore, which at one point of time, had a thousand lakes is today forced to draw water from nearly 1000 feet below the ground

Not knowing the background of a lake, children gather at a 'playground' in Chikka-Kalla­sandra in Uttarahalli every evening where some sheds of scrap dealers too have come up, while a large portion of it is reserved for the sale of construction materials.

This is not an ordinary playground but Chikka-Kallasandra Lake, which is a victim of land sharks who are on the prowl across the City grabbing water bodies, pasture land, natural canals, hillocks, forest, playgrounds and parks.

Village documents say that the lake is spread on 13 acres and 20 guntas, but today it is a barren land and is at least two feet above the ground level. Some elderly people in the area still recall the days when they used to swim there.

Muniyappa's anguish is palpable when he narrates about the death of the lake. “I learnt swimming in this lake, which was home to many birds preying on the fish. It was a delight for the eyes watching birds flying over the clean water of the lake. It was connected to the Gowdanapalya Lake through natural canals.” 

“Today, there is neither a lake nor its canal. Everything is gone. It happened over a period of 15 years right in front of my eyes,” says Muniyappa with a sigh.

While talking about the lake, the Padmanabha Nagar MLA R Ashoka, under whose constituency the lake falls, had often said that there is a 'dispute' with the lake, which is preventing its development. The Bangalore Development Authority's web application 'Drushti' shows many residential and commercial building on the 'lake'.

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, its custodian, is helpless to the rampant encroachment of the lake. A senior Palike official says they are never allowed to carry out any work there as many houses have come up there and many more will come up in the next few years.

Away from Chikka-kallasandra, at Rampura between KR Puram and Mandur near Whitefield is the Rampura lake, spread over 100 acres. But the way dumping is happening there, it is a matter of a few months when some 'lake view apartments' would come up and gradually, this lake will also vanish.

It is the same lake where the garbage trucks en route to Mandur were dumping City's filth. After Deccan Herald reported it in December last year, the Karnataka High Court took note of it, seeking details of the dumping. However, the HC's order has not stopped the land-grabbers there, who are dumping soil into the lake. 

Sanjana (name changed), a local resident, says, “Hundreds of trucks dump soil inside the lake as we curse our helplessness to take the land-grabbers head-on.” The audacity of the land-grabbers has only increased in the last few mainly because the government officials' hands are tied. As a senior officer in the Bangalore Urban District administration recalls, “We had to wind up our encroachment drive on Ibbalur lake, where apartments have come up, when we received a phone call from the 'top'.”

Social activist, S R Hiremath, had said with more clarity on this issue in a press conference in Bangalore about two months ago. “Energy Minister D K Shivakumar had made the phone call to the district officers, due to which the eviction drive was stopped.” 

The loot has reduced Bangalore to being a water-starved City, which once boasted of being a ‘City of thousand lakes' during the British regime. Water scarcity was alien to this City as lakes helped in maintaining the water table.

Today, the City is left with a mere 104 lakes, which are maintained by the BBMP, BDA, Lake Development Authority, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited, minor irrigation department and the forest department. As the lakes have been handed over to different government agencies, the lack of coordination between them has left the water bodies neglected.

Ruining the water bodies and their canals has resulted in drastic decline in groundwater level across the City. Krishnarajapuram, which had the maximum number of lakes in the City, is the worst affected, with water depleting to at least 1,000 feet.

Today, most of the lakes are cesspools of sewage and their natural canals have either completely been covered up or carry the sanitary water. The residue of the sewage gradually settles down in the lake bed, sounding the knell for the water body. 

Most of the canals are directly connected to the two important rivers of the City, Vrishabhavathi and Arkavathi, which too have become sewage carriers. These two ‘sewage carriers’ join Cauvery, the 'Southern Ganga’, near Kanakapura.

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