Gottigere lake used to be a major source of water for south Bangalore. Its overflow fed several other lakes in the area. It was also the reason why so many people bought apartments nearby.
It’s now a weed-choked, breeding ground for mosquitoes. “I shifted here because of the nearby lake but sadly it has turned out to be a dump yard,” says Mahesh Gune, a resident of Bohra Layout in Gottigere. “Waste from chicken shops is dumped in the lake and that has led to an increase of street dogs in the area,” complains Ali Azgar, another resident.
In the recent years, several apartments complexes have been built in the area without sewage treatment facilities. Not only is their sewage being released into the lake, the municipal corporation has diverted a pipeline that was carrying waste to the sewage treatment plant (STP) at Hulimavu into Gottigere Lake.
In despair, residents have got together to fix the problem. A group of them met the architect of the successful Hulimavu lake cleaning project, Saurabh Sukumaran Nair, a teacher and volunteer with the Art of Living Foundation. “I started cleaning Hulimavu lake alone with a bamboo stick. It gained support from civic authorities and volunteer groups and became a success,” recollects Nair.
A similar story seems to be playing out in Gottigere. A group of residents gather with their tools at the lake every Sunday at 6.30 am to deweed it and clear the trash. Their initiative has drawn the attention of other residents, some of whom have joined in the work. One of them is Vinod, a disabled person, who serves tea to the group members as his contribution to the effort.
The initiative has now caught the attention of the authorities. Bangalore south MLA M. Krishnappa visited the lake and attended a pooja as part of the inauguration of its renovation. “There will be a walkway built beside the lake and beneath the walkway, all the sewage points will be connected and directed to an STP at another place,” says Krishnappa.
This is not the first attempt to clean the lake. “Some year ago, an organisation called V-save was formed and we had the Upa Lokayukta visit the lake,” a resident remembers. “He took note of all the issues and directed the municipal agencies (BWSSB, BDA) to take action. But it didn’t happen.”
What little was done, soon fell into disrepair. A fence was built to restrict entry to the lake, but people broke it. “People who come to dump garbage at night also broke the street lights, which makes it difficult for us to walk on the road at night,” says Ashakiran Jain.
The groundwater in the area has been contaminated by the pollution in the lake. As a result, residents “are forced to spend a lot of money to buy 15-20 tanker loads of water every day,” says Gune.
Adds Azgar, “This was a very big lake, the water flow was so strong that it would have flooded the road. Now water levels have dropped, and water quality has deteriorated. But with the joint efforts of government and volunteers, we are hoping to see this lake full of water in a couple of years.”
Other residents see it as their duty. “We want to continue this lake cleaning on a voluntary basis; we collect money and buy tools and other things required,” says Ashakiran. “We don’t want to accept any funds from anyone. We want to bring this lake back to its original glory fast.”
(Mahesh Bacham is a Bengaluru-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)