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Bengaluru Lakes Set For Rejuvenation?
While anti-encroachment drives are in full swing, the private sector has to step in to do its bit
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In August 2022, large parts of Bengluru were submerged under water, brining normalcy to a screeching halt. This was however not due to the amount of rainfall the city received. It is the lakes that are unable to store water which is conventionally what happens. Bengluru has 210 lakes, covering 3622 acres. As per some estimates, 310 acres have been encroached on, for tech parks, schools, colleges, and even some government agencies. While anti-encroachment drives are in full swing, the private sector has to step in to do its bit.
What are the issues?
The first is identifying the encroached areas, for which there are not enough surveyors. Even if the identification does occur, the concerned party swiftly gets a stay order. This goes on till the legal battle is settled. Further, the capacity of the lakes to hold water has severely come down. A study shows that in 1800 the city's lakes had a combined capacity to hold 35 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water. The average rainfall Bengaluru gets today is estimated at 15 tmcft, which was the only year it was marginally higher. Despite the mammoth capacity of the lakes, they are unable to absorb the rainfall water. This is despite the elevated topography of the city that facilitates.
Why should you care?
With irregular desilting, the water-holding capacity of the lakes is severely compromised. Earlier, this silt was used by farmers, but now this silt is severely contaminated. The pollutants accumulate over time, creating an impermeable layer that will not let water seep in. This has also become a challenge. One of the worst affected is the Belandur lake, which is estimated to take on 40 percent of the city's daily waste. Not only is the water from this lake now unpotable, this creates an anaerobic environment in the water, jacking up methane production. The foam above on the lake service adds up to a conducive environment for a fire to break out. If you are living in Bengaluru, be prepared for a sore eye and stench than the scenic view that you were anticipating if there is a lake near your house. For a city that was once hailed as a land of 1000 lakes, it is a strong wake-up call.
So what is being done?
Taking care of lakes also includes taking care of local water sources and hygiene. Corporations have the responsibility today to give back to the society we reside in and safeguard nature for future generations. The existing state groundwater contamination and depleting levels is a raising concern across the city. Hence In order to ensure a sustainable future for everyone, there has never been a better time for corporates to begin concentrating on restoring the lakes and other water bodies. We’ll know the importance of water conservation especially now that we face water stress across urban India that extends to its outskirts. As per some of the latest reports by the Water Resources Department, Karnataka is one of the most water-stressed states in India with 61 percent of the state coming under drought-prone areas. The best remedy would be the holistic approach to rejuvenating water bodies. However, such projects are capital and labour-intensive and require collective efforts of various government, private and non-government institutions. The science of water conversation not only focuses on water generation and conversation itself but will also need to look at a holistic approach to restoring ecological balance.
Talking about some of the work done to revive Bangalore lakes, Shilpa Sinha Harsh, Senior Vice President – Global Corporate Communications, CSR and D&I, Hinduja Global Solutions says, “We often see that the quality of water has a direct impact on yield and quality of crops and fertility of soil. In this regard, HGS has taken up water rejuvenation projects at Mugaluru (Anekal District, Bangalore) which focuses on the integrated development of the lake ecosystem to serve the needs of the local communities engaged in agriculture. We have worked towards increasing the storage capacity of the lake, improving water supply through inlet clean-up and increase in the green cover which has yielded great results such as an increase of lake volume to more than 80,000 kilolitres and the return of local flora and fauna. Such projects will collectively address the water challenges in the immediate localities, and in-turn in the state….At the end of the day, the lakes belong to the communities and not to the institutions that rejuvenate them.”
There are many organisations working day and night to revive Bengaluru lakes. Srikanth Karra, CHRO, Mphasis, says “Mphasis’ afforestation drive in collaboration with United Way of Bangalore is one such initiative toward taking a step forward in reviving the biodiversity of the state. In addition to planting trees, Mphasis is helping United Way Bengaluru's ‘One Billion Drops’ effort to build percolation wells in the city of Bengaluru to collect rainwater and conserve it. Each percolation well can conserve 1,28,000 litres of rainwater annually and help augment the groundwater table level in the catchment area. With the combined efforts of the campaign, we are taking a huge step forward toward reviving the biodiversity of the state and helping fight the ongoing water crisis. Additionally, we also worked in collaboration with UWBe and BBMP on the rejuvenation of Mahadevapura lake to restore the ecosystem and motivate people to establish centers for a thriving sociocultural life. The renovation of Bengaluru's Dommasandra Lake is another key action performed to ensure water security by increasing the groundwater level benefitting aquatic life.”
These are just two examples of the vast expanse of work being done by companies, in addition to the work done by activists and local residents. Bruhat Bengluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) is using INR 229 to revive the lakes in the city. Whether the Silicon Valley of India will restore itself to its former glory is something only time will tell, but work is being done in full swing to achieve the same.