Guest post by: Usha Rajagopalan
"How a citizens' group that is instrumental in reviving a dying lake in an urban locality attempts to protect it with innovative methods that are effective yet sensitive to people's genuine needs and beliefs. PNLIT believes that an inclusive problem solving approach will encourage public participation which is the key to sustaining not just the Puttenahalli lake but all water bodies."
Photo credit: Sujesh S
As caretakers of the Puttenahalli Lake in J.P. Nagar 7th Phase, a festival like Ganesh Chaturthi sends a shiver down our backs. Our Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust is the first citizens' group to sign an MOU with the BBMP to maintain a lake and we do take our assignment rather seriously. About two months before Ganesh Chaturthi, we began worrying about how we were going to prevent people from immersing their idols in the lake. What if the chemicals kill the fish? Only now we have been able to partially control sewage water from entering the water. Won't the flowers, the plantain leaves, the plastic cover and of course, the painted idol undo all the good work?
We had been worried last year too and had used all sorts of arguments to fend off the worshippers from heaving their idols in the water. This year their number was bound to increase because the water level in our lake has gone up. The BBMP assured us that our Puttenahalli Lake was not a designated Immersion Lake and so no one would come with their idols. We were not quite convinced.
Our lake, neglected, misused, forgotten till early last year is reviving and already attracting over 20 species of water birds. Indeed, many of them like the Common Coot and the Swamp Hen have builtnests among the bulrushes and are
hatching young ones.
Photo credit: Sudhir Singh
Pairs of Spot Bill Duck and Purple Heron had made the lake their home. More people have started frequenting the lake for morning and evening walks. They sit on the stone benches and stretch their legs while watching the birds. Our lake has become a sanctuary in the middle of a concrete jungle. Permitted or prohibited, people were bound to come to the lake to immerse their idols.
We wanted to hire guards. The security agency told us to contact the nearest police station instead. We decided to guard the lake ourselves. We posted one gardener at two entrances and in turn one of us, Trustees, stood at the main entrance on 2nd Sept. Soon enough people started coming with plastic bags looking to immerse the idols. We patiently and politely sent them away. On 3rd. Sept. we couldn't bear the guilt of disappointing so many devotees. We brought a big bucket from one of our houses and kept it at the entrance filled with water. Within a couple of hours there were no less than 12 Ganeshas of various
sizes and colours immersed in the bucket!
Photo credit: Usha Rajagopalan
By the end of the festival, over 30 Ganeshas had made their way into our red bucket. The flowers and other degradable offerings went into our compost pile. The worshippers went away happy. We were happier that we had saved our lake. Next year we'll get a bigger bucket!