Reviving local water sources

The team cleaning the Doddakondagola lake

The Hasirubhoomi Foundation, which was launched on May 1, 2017, in Hassan, has motivated people from different walks of life to charter a new revolution for a community cause. The Foundation, which has engineers, teachers, writers, activists, doctors, journalists, members of voluntary organisations, both young and old, as its trustees, has restored three lakes, 35 kalyanis (step well), planted 25,000 saplings on the tank bunds and supported villagers to open a library. The Foundation has indeed turned a wellspring of many restoration projects in the district.

The main objective of this foundation is to address water crisis witnessed in the region due to successive droughts, besides recording suicides of over 200 farmers. The Foundation began with 17 trustees and the number has increased to 27 today. One of the hallmark initiatives was that it rejuvenated and breathed life into a 3.45-acre lake at Doddakondagola. It was a difficult task as the lake is highly polluted with waste, from garbage to sewage, was flowing into the tank. 

The water body was completely covered by weeds like water hyacinth, turning it into a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The lake was frothing and spewing toxic foam. Due to all this, the lake was dying a slow death. In fact, many cattle had drowned in the lake’s silt when they had gone there to drink water.

New lease of life

Initially, local people were reluctant and were not ready to extend support. However, the team put meticulous thought into the restoration process. Awareness campaigns were organised to educate residents on the hazards of dumping waste into the lake. “Fundraising took a pricking start, but later Rs 1.5 lakh was raised by staging a play and donations were received from other corners too,” says Subbaswamy, president of the foundation. 

The team members recollect how government officials supported the cause, both morally and financially. “Hassan assistant commissioner and honorary president of the foundation, Dr H L Nagaraj, not only donated money but also encouraged his office staff to participate in the endeavour,” says R P Venkatesh Murthy, a key member of the foundation. 

The rejuvenation work of the Doddakondagola lake began on May 11, 2017. Volunteers worked in shifts, turn by turn. As a first step, they cleared the garbage and other waste using modern machinery equipment. Later, they adopted a scientific method for desilting the lake.

“Even when the digging work was on, we noticed puddle,” Rupa Hassan, a trustee of the foundation recalls. 

The work ended in 22 days. Incidentally, heavy rain set in a day after the work ended and saw the lake brimming with water. The team renovated the tank bund and fenced it, besides letting 15,000 fish into the lake. 

With restoration on the full swing, the lake has turned a point of reference for many activists and environmentalists, besides becoming a recreational hotspot. 

“Now the aquatic life thrives in the lake. Indigenous plants are growing, making the place look beautiful. Fishing has turned to be a subsidiary activity for local people. Some have caught fish weighing about 3.5 quintals and earned Rs 50,000,” Rupa says. Youths of 20 villages have formed a union and rear fish in these lakes. 

Subsequently, the team gathered every week to clean the kalyanis that were dried up and gave them a new lease of life. During the process, they inspired people of several villagers to take up the cause and work towards achieving self-reliance in water. So far, they have successfully revived three lakes in different villages. While the work of one lake is under progress, one private company has taken the team’s guidance to replenish a lake.

Interestingly, all the lakes restored by the team have not dried up even during summer. “We clear the silt completely by digging at least nine feet deep, unlike government projects wherein they dig only three to four feet deep. If we do the work efficiently, the lakes remain brimming with water for at least eight to nine years,” say the team members.

Way ahead

The trustees have formed teams for the maintenance of these water bodies and to ensure protection from people polluting water bodies with plastic, sewage and other effluents. Once slumbered in dirt, the revival process around the lake has revived the ecosystem creating a conducive climate for flora and fauna.

The restoration effort posed a challenge before people who did not come out of their comfort zones to make a difference through participation. Hence, the participatory approach helped sustain their effort and continue to work effectively. The lake revival efforts of the Hasirubhoomi Foundation have inspired many more. For instance, a group of enthusiasts in Byakaravalli village panchayat of Sakaleshpura taluk, rejuvenated a lake in their village one year ago.

To know more about the efforts of the foundation, email hasirubhoomiprathistana@gmail.com.

(Translated with inputs by JA)

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