Good Samaritan - A writer's behind the story of a lake redeemed

Apr 20 2015 : The Economic Times (Bangalore)

Good Samaritan - A Writer's Behind the Story of a Lake Redeemed

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Settling down in Bengaluru in 2006 to further her writing career, Usha Rajagopalan not only became a familiar face in the literary circuit but also assumed the identity of a strong-willed environmentalist, known for single-handedly infusing life into the dying Puttenahalli Lake in JP Nagar.

“In 2009, when I first took up the issue of the garbage-filled lake with residents of my apartment complex, they shrugged off the responsibility and asked me to just notify the BBMP . I could not leave it at that,“ Usha told ET. “So, I started a `Save The Lake' campaign with three friends.Within 7-8 months in February 2010, the BBMP decided to rejuvenate the lake.“

Usha's intention of being personally involved with the corporation at all stages of their restoration activity stemmed from a simple logic ­ if one has to bring about change, it cannot happen standing at a distance.

“I brought the neighbourhood together in April 2010 and encouraged them to pledge money for planting trees around the lake,“ she said. “We received pledges worth `48,000 and planted 125 saplings in the first lot, whose survival rate is about 80%.“

In 2011, BBMP handed over the maintenance of the lake to the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT), a citizens' group formed by Usha and three others ­ Arathi Maney , Prasanna K Vynatheya and OP Ramaswamy .

This was the first instance of a lake being given to residents, and they receive no financial assistance from the BBMP whatsoever.“We approach the neigh bourhood for donations. It is challenging to make people come forward and take responsibility .“ She also conducts community activities at the lake to bring people together.

Today , Usha has many achievements to her credit, the most recent being working to let excess water from the STP at her apartment complex into the lake to raise water level. This is, again, a first for the city.

With her unwavering care, Usha has transformed the lake into a natural ecosystem, which sees more than 80 varieties of birds, including rarities like the Garganey duck, the Asian openbill stork and the Yellow wagtail.

Her passion for writing continues. Besides translating Bharatiyar's poems, she has written a collection of short stories in English. Her last work was a thriller titled `Finding Purnima'. “I am not that pushy about writing, but when it comes to the lake, I will go all out for it,“ she smiled.

Divya Shekhar

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