Strategy / Approach
The foaming and frothing lakes of Bangalore is now seared into all our memories, and our lakes are finally getting the attention needed before they all disappear.
It wasn’t always so, Bengaluru was a city of 1000 lakes they say. Now you will be hard pressed to say if we actually have even 100. The rapid increase in population coupled with poor infrastructure planning and unrestricted growth has destroyed the natural water eco-system. Sewage flows into the lake and once pristine lakes that residents used to fish and swim in are smelly, black cesspools.
Concerned citizens living in and around Varthur Lake, the second largest water body in Bengaluru, decided enough was enough, and came together in late 2014. To learn about and advocate for the rejuvenation of the lake.
Varthur Lake cooperated too! The foaming waters of the lake gave us white snow in late April 2015. Bellandur Lake – the largest lake in Bengaluru – did its part as well. The methane built up resulted in the lake actually catching fire.
Attention from the press, both local, national and international, pressured the CM of Karnataka to take action. The matter was raised at the National Green Tribunal, which led to a NGT Committee to oversee the rejuvenation plan of both Varthur & Bellandur Lake.
The history of the Varthur Lake rejuvenation is here: https://www.humanityhelps.me/varthur-lake-recovery
Twitter thread gives you the latest updates: https://twitter.com/wfrising/status/1112729776232509440?s=21
During the course of the campaign to save Varthur Lake, Whitefield Rising highlighted the blatant encroachment along the Thubarahalli shore. The team also investigated and captured the illegal dumping of debris and dust from prominent construction projects in Whitefield.
The main culprit in the foaming of the lake is the phosphates & phthalates that form part of the ingredients in the detergents we use at home. During a visit by an NGT committee, WR representatives presented a petition to ban / reduce the use of phosphates in the washing powder, as successfully demonstrated in America and other European nations. The petition is still progressing, and we hope NGT will take this matter up, not just to save our water bodies in Bengaluru but in the rest of the country as well.
If you have any concerns or issues you want to raise with respect to the lake, please do so at: varthurlake.com
Want to join the Varthur Lake team, please email us at email@example.com
Strategy / Approach (How are we addressing this issue)
We took a multipronged unique approach leveraging multiple stakeholders including fellow volunteer groups, judiciary, media, Indian Institute of Science, KK English School, local farmers, Corporates and so on. We helped the government agencies, leveraging these varied stakeholders, collaborating with all the stakeholders and the Government agencies and are coming up with the most scientific approach to lake rejuvenation.
While we have a long way to go in reaching our goals, we are seeing tangible milestones in our journey.
- Better awareness on the need to treat wastewater and reuse.
- Better awareness on the need to harvest rainwater and reuse.
- Better awareness on the need to recharge groundwater.
- Better awareness on the need to reduce water consumption.
Specific areas of focus
1. Continue with the rejuvenation of the Varthur Lake and then shift focus to medium to long term maintenance of the lake. Maintenance will need the same vigilance as the rejuvenation efforts to prevent the lake from regressing.
2. We need to set a goal on the number of open wells that we want to rejuvenate as well as dig new ones. We need to find locations where these can be dug and get necessary permissions and the resources needed to rejuvenate/dig these wells. These can be in schools, public parks, public land and so on.
We want to successfully rejuvenate the Varthur Lake and maintain it. Hopefully we can showcase the best practices that are applicable in our context so that other lake volunteers can pick up some of our best practices and learnings and customise the same for their context.
We want to dig as many open wells as possible and shift the water supply sources from tankers/borewells to open wells, to whatever extent possible.
Besides Varthur Lake, WR members have taken up the cause of other lake systems and water bodies in the Whitefield area – Nallurhalli Lake, Siddapura Pond, Hoodi-Giddanakere Lake, Pattandur Agrahara Lake, Kundalahalli Lake and Sheelavanthakere Lake
Monsoon 2016 saw Nallurhalli residents, backed by WR, planting saplings around Nallurhalli Lake, while cleaning the lakebed of trash. Members continue to further the cause, and the lake is currently being rejuvenated by BBMP.
To the delight of residents, the Siddhapura Pond in Hagadur ward has been surveyed and fenced and protected for public use. Though it has a long way to go. The water body off Main Road had become a spot for debris dumping and garbage burning. The fence was the result of persistent efforts of ordinary citizens under the aegis of WR and ward committee members, who held several meetings with the Tahsildar, the Hagadur Corporator, the Mahadevapura MLA, an MLC, and the Bengaluru Development Minister.
WR has supported the initiative of Brookefields residents to rejuvenate Kundalahalli Lake, which now has decentralized STPs that can run without electricity.
WR also backed an initiative of nearby residents and VDB Group to fence Sheelavanthakere, build a walkway, erect benches and plant trees around the lake. In May 2017, over two weekends, men, women and children from different parts of Mahadevapura Zone joined hands with BBMP workers to remove hundreds of kilograms of trash—beer bottles, plastic bags, paper sheets, cloth sheets, shoes and even idols—from the lake bank.
Pattandur Agrahara Lake is under threat, with many vested interests trying to encroach it to build residential and commercial purposes. However, lake activists campaigned and took the matter to the Karnataka High Court. PIL was filed to protect the boundaries and to ascertain the ownership of the land area. The matter is sub-judice at the moment. Hoodi-Giddanakere abuts ITPL Main Road and is a small water body with many migratory birds calling it home during different seasons of the year. As with every water body, sewage turned the water black. Concerned citizens formed a group and raised the matter to the BBMP Lakes team. When the list to rejuvenate lake bodies was drawn up, the lake was included in the list. Work is ongoing, at the moment.
What can you do?
If there are water bodies in your area that are under threat, start by contacting like minded citizens and form a group. Investigate and learn who is in charge of the water body – your Corporator or Ward Committee will be able to help. If that fails, reach out to Friends of Lakes, ask on social media – Facebook, Twitter are good bets, or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Find out the causes for the deterioration in the condition of the lake – sewage entering the lake, encroachment, garbage being thrown in are some possible causes. Reach out to concerned authorities and raise the issue. Contact other lake activists for best practices and support.