Puttenahalli Post in Citizen Matters
6th June 2011
PNLIT has been invited to contribute to a blog on the lake and our other initiatives in Citizen Matters.
Here are the first two pieces.
USHA RAJAGOPALAN, 04 Jun 2011
A Wish that came true
As a creative writer I am constantly discovering new things about places, people and myself. Since the last four years though I have been privileged to tackle perhaps my greatest discovery - the Puttenahalli Lake in J.P. Nagar, 7th Phase. What began as a wish to prevent misuse of the lake
gathered momentum and led to the formation of the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT) in June 2010. Eleven months later, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the BBMP to formally maintain the lake, the first citizens’ group to do so.
Every time we visit the lake, my fellow trustees and I find something or the other to exult over - a hundred nomadic Whistling Ducks (where did they come from?), varieties of fish (how do they enter the water in the first place?), fluttering butterflies (where were they all this while?). We are also faced with new challenges – how to remove the invasive aquatic weeds (what are they called anyway?) without dislodging the homes of the Common Coot or the Purple Swamphen, how to stop trespassers from cutting the fence, etc. etc.
We post these in our website <http://sites.google.com/site/puttenahallilakeonline> and still get requests from family, friends and their friends to know more about our “lake stories”. This new column is to share with you our experiences not just with Puttenahalli Lake but also about PNLIT initiatives to maintain the areas around the lake.
You are welcome to give your suggestions and comments as much as to laugh at us as we confront new problems or stumble upon more refreshing discoveries at Puttenahalli Lake.
USHA RAJAGOPALAN, 06 Jun 2011
The case of vanishing lakes
Once upon a time, not so long ago, our city with its salubrious climate, smooth roads and countless trees made it a pensioners’ paradise. Indeed, Bengaluru had at least two other names as well – The Garden City and the City of Lakes.
All this changed within the last three decades or so. The tree cover has been blown and the lakes are vanishing. If in the 1830s there were an incredible 19,800 lakes and tanks, by the 1960s the number dwindled to 280 and reduced further by 1990 to less than 80. They vanished as quickly as the population zoomed for, they gave way to residential colonies, stadia and office complexes.
Old timers like fellow PNLIT trustee Arathi’s mother Rukmani Manay remember fondly, and with considerable sorrow, how as a child she used to fish in Akkithimmanahalli Tank in Richmond Town. Arathi used to call it “Mud Tank,” a name which reflects its degradation into a stagnant pool that was a breeding ground for mosquitoes. In the early 80s, under a malaria eradication programme, the erstwhile tank was filled up completely. A part of it became a playground and the rest was it was built over into offices. That was the end of the Akkithimmanahalli Tank.
Unlike cities that have a major river running through them, Bengaluru is fully dependent on rain water. The undulating topography guided the water into streams that were dammed into many smaller tanks. This meant that the water bodies were originally connected to each other; water from a lake at a higher level flowed to one lower down and still further down through a canal system called the *kaluve*. Since they were rain fed, only the bigger lakes had water through the year, the small and medium sized tanks dried up in summer.
Encroachments being the order of the day, buildings came up over many of the kaluves and inflow into those lakes and tanks was blocked. Consequently, flooding in low lying areas became common but the lake dried steadily, its boundary shrank and its bed rose with people in the locality throwing
garbage into it. To compound matters, lorries and tractor tipped construction debris into these precious water bodies making it convenient for squatters to extend their hutments even further.
The slum, in turn, gave way to concrete buildings and the lake became a fading memory in people like Arathi’s mother.
This is the condition of all the lakes and tanks in the city. This was true of our Puttenahalli Lake too. The photo taken in December 2008 shows how the lake was becoming a dumping ground.
In the BBMP website <http://www.bbmplakes.info/lake/Report.aspx>, with a single exception of “Lake Inside BEL Campus” shown as a “Waterbody,” each one of the lakes/tanks is marked as polluted, dry or marshy. The list was compiled in 2009 and shows desilting work in progress in six lakes.
Our Puttenahalli kere is indicated as polluted. It was desilted in February last year but remains polluted. Sewage water from the adjoining Lakshmi Layout trickles steadily into the lake throughout the year but come monsoon, two of the six inlets let in rain water. The dirty water helps proliferation
of aquatic weeds to such an extent that the water level may go up but its depth below the marshy surface will remain a mystery. “Where is the water in the lake?” is the question we are asked every so often.
Friends, it is there all right. If you look closely, you’ll see the ripples made by fishes darting in the water. You will see the purple herons, darters, coots and swamp hens thriving because of the food they get from the lake. Even though Puttenahalli Lake will never have sparkling blue water
like a swimming pool, we have a lot to be thankful for. Most importantly because it has survived. It did not vanish like hundreds of other lakes and tanks in the city!