Life and water at Rachenahalli lake

It provides natural resources to people living around it, acts as a sink for fisher folk cleaning fish or women doing laundry, and receives treated sludge from new residences around it.
Rachenahalli Lake (Source: Sumetee Pahwa Gajjar)
Rachenahalli Lake (Source: Sumetee Pahwa Gajjar)

Rachenahalli is one of the few living lakes in north Bangalore. It is connected to water bodies upstream and downstream, particularly Jakkur Lake on the north-east. Both these lakes have been rejuvenated at substantial costs by the Bangalore Development Authority over the last decade. A sewage treatment plant (STP) with a capacity to treat 10 million litres a day was set up north of Jakkur Lake by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB). Water from the STP flows into Rachenahalli Lake when Jakkur Lake overflows during monsoon.

Rachenahalli is an example of a thriving social ecological system. It provides natural resources to people living around it, acts as a sink for fisher folk cleaning fish or women doing Sunday laundry, and receives treated sludge from new residences around it as well as from an upstream STP. Despite this, it continues to live and support life.

 

Molded fishing boats straddle a bountiful lake as new residential developments herald high-rise living into Bangalore’s peri-urban areas. Treated wastewater from most of these high rises will end up in the lake. 

 

Manjunath, a shepherd from Amruttahalli, throws one of his sheep into the lake before giving it a thorough soap and scrub.

 

Manna pulls along the next sheep picked for its sunny Sunday morning fling, dunk and scrub.

 

Clumps of bulrushes rise above the water; clumps of concrete define the boundaries of Karle SEZ (Special Economic Zone) in the distance. The SEZ abuts the Outer Ring Road, connecting Hebbal to KR Puram.

 

Children of migrant construction workers from Bihar learn Hindi, English and Kannada in a local school. While their parents work on a new commercial building overlooking the lake, the children play in fresh mud.

 

Rupa and Bhagya in the Royal Enclave property owner welfare association (REPOWA) park. Normally this park is off limits for domestic helpers and their children but road upgrades around the lake have unlocked many doors! 

 

The shop owner throws water beneath the chicken coop, which washes off bird excreta into the drain below. The drain empties into Rachenahalli Lake. 

 

Seven drums for the 7 days after which water comes in the municipal pipe servicing this residence. Mom, her three sons and their friends pose alongside the chillies drying atop the drums. 

 

A wealthier resident draws water from a well on her property. The well water is charged by the lake.

 

The man weighing the fish runs a thriving business next to the lake, with minimal financial investment.

 

Extra help for cleaning and cutting the fish is needed on weekends when families buy in bulk for an extra sumptuous meal.

 

 Two fishermen prepare their catch for sale at local eateries. They throw the innards of the fish back into the lake, as food for other organisms.

 

Bags, knives, slippers, feet and hands are all immersed in the lake waters.

 

 A solar panel charges a night lamp and a cell phone while the fisher folk’s clothes dry in the strong sun. Across the lake is the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Rural Energy and Development (MGIRED), with solar panels on its roof and wind generators in the compound.

 

 Most days, the fish is caught early mornings and evenings. But today the catch and sale warranted an extra mid-day foray into the waters. The stone embankment in the foreground is part of the 19 crore rupee investment made by BDA into “lake rejuvenation”. 

 

Two Pelicans leave their trail behind on a very still surface that reflects new and old residential complexes. Godrej apartments on the far right are almost 3 kms away, on the New Airport Road.

 

 Cows can graze along the idyllic lake shores since the paved areas have soft boundaries with adjoining roads, private properties and public parks.

 

Three fishing boats rest for the night carrying rolled up fishing nets, thermacol seats for the fisherman and small oars. The waters get rough during extreme rain events, but for most part of the year, this spot, a few steps down from the fish market, is fairly protected.

 

 

 

The author and photographer, Sumetee Pahwa Gajjar, has been living in the vicinity of the lake for the last 3 years since her return from Cape Town. The lake and its living waters inspire and intrigue Sumetee. More recently, she has taken an active interest in the many ways that people derive resources from the water body and its surroundings. Pahwa is 'Lead in Practice' at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore, and has a keen interest in rural-urban dynamics and dispossession and distress associated with migrant labor. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of India Water Portal.