To benefit people or to beautify places?

Raipur in Chhattisgarh, once had approximately 130 lakes. That number stands at 37 today. Restoration efforts are visibly limited to their beautification and not their benefit to the people.
Budha Talab - the largest pond in Raipur Budha Talab - the largest pond in Raipur

The population of Raipur has increased over the years and with it, the demand for land. Encroachment along with the unplanned construction of residential colonies, independent houses, commericial complexes and industrial structures have resulted in 93 lakes disappearing. Even the 37 lakes that are in existence are highly polluted; the water isn't fit for drinking or bathing. However, slum dwellers in Raipur don't have too many options. 

These lakes once served as traditional water harvesting systems in the area. The water was used for drinking as well as fishing, irrigation and other domestic purposes. Now, these water bodies are dumping grounds for untreated sewage and solid waste. To top this off, more and more people have started immersing idols in these lakes during festival times thereby increasing the organic and mineral nutrients that go into it. While this supports abundant plant life, it depletes the oxygen supply that is required for animal life. All this not only affects the water bodies but also the health of the city residents; people who bathe in these waters complain of itchy skin and other ailments. 

The efforts taken by the government to restore these lakes over the years are visibly limited to their beautification but there are many other benefits that will come from this:

  • Increase in means of livelihood
  • Greater availability of clean and safe drinking water
  • Increase in tourism activities
  • Increase in groundwater levels
  • Benefit to pisciculture (fish farming)
  • Greater environmental sustainability

It is time that the government spent the time and money to restore these once beautiful lakes to their old glory.

The photos below show the lakes in their current pitiful state. 

Pahaladvia talab - constructed in 1830, it is now facing problems of pollution, silting and encroachment.

  

Pahaladvia talab - Every year idols of different Indian gods are immersed in various lakes in Raipur, which add to pollution woes.

 

Garbage on the bank of Budha Talab - Budha talab is the largest lake in Raipur. Constructed in the 10th century by Raja Brahma Dev, this lake was used for recreational and religious purposes. It has been four decades since this lake was properly cleaned.

 

Transfer of dirt – the water in the Budha talab is getting more and more polluted because of people bathing in it.

 

Water hyacinth in the Budha talab - this plant spreads rapidly and if not removed immediately, will affect the aquatic life in the lake.

  

Khokho talab - clothes being dried on its ghats. Washing of clothes in the lakes is a very common practice in Raipur and has caused extensive pollution.

 

A fisherman in Khokho talab - the fish in the lakes has drastically reduced thereby affecting the livelihood of the fishermen. 

View the full photo-set here.

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