Will this lake survive?

by Madhavi Shivaprasad

The Hindu, March 9, 2011

Efforts are under way to restore Puttenhalli Lake to its pristine glory

Flanked by a coconut palm grove, residential apartment complexes and a slum settlement, the Puttenhalli lake in JP Nagar's seventh phase is nothing like it once was. The once pristine lake, that old-timers will tell you played host to a wide variety of birds, supported a fishing community and was a pleasure to behold, is now a bit of an eyesore.

Though citizens' groups have been engaged in efforts to revive the lake, and protect it from the garbage and sewage that make their way routinely into the water body, the task has been anything but easy. Even as residents' groups hold the illegal slum settlement responsible for the situation, and want them out, the civic authorities have failed to chalk out a proper rehabilitation plan for these people who have lived here for no fewer than two decades.

Residents of the slum, who authorities dismiss as ‘squatters', have been “allotted” alternate housing near Electronics City. But that's only on paper. When they discovered that there was neither housing nor provision for basic amenities there, they refused to vacate.

A notable initiative that has been able to engage with the civic body over the past three years is the ‘Save Our Lake' campaign. It has met with some success with phase one of the restoration process, in which filters and inlets were cleared. “With support from the public and elected representatives, we will be able to make our lake a model of a healthy government-neighbourhood enterprise,” hopes Usha Rajagopalan, chairperson of the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT).

Several indigenous trees such as the Arjuna, wild mango and jamun have been planted to draw birds after consulting naturalists and ecologists. “We chose older saplings so they bear fruit sooner. However, this will take time,” says Prasanna Vynatheya, an avid bird watcher and joint managing trustee of PNLIT. Another member, Manay, says: “We have tried to dissuade slum-dwellers from dumping items in the lake. But it hasn't worked. Moreover, the water used to get polluted due to sewage flowing into the lake. Work is being done on the inlet water drain to divert the sewage into the channel.”

The second phase of development began in February this year with the BBMP working on the inner fencing of the lake. Once the slum settlement is relocated, civic authorities plan to develop the area into a tree park.

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