The human chain around Arekere lake

Veena Hegde, member of the Arekere Neighbourhood Improvement Trust, speaks to The Alternative about the lake restoration work and progress.


A 100 year old lake decaying in the midst of the hustle bustle of a city imploding in it’s aspiration for infrastructural growth, opportunities and urbanization. This is the story of the average dying lake, that was once a flourishing part of the city’s canal system ‘Raja Kaluve’ during the great visionary, Kempegowda’s reign.

Inspired by what neighbouring Puttenahalli lake achieved, residents around Arakere lake formed the Arekare Neighbourhood Improvement Trust (ANIT) to work with the BDA to restore and maintain the lake. Members of ANIT have been so far successful in raising awareness with a human chain formed near the lake that saw the participation of hundreds from nearby schools and housing socities. All of this comes in the wake of the sewage water floods from the lake that occurred last year in the vicinity and the water crisis and disappearing biodiversity in the city.

The Alternative spoke with Veena Hegde, one of the founding members of ANIT.

What led to your personal involvement in the Arakere lake restoration project?

I’ve been a resident of Bannerghatta road for the past 10 years. When we first built our house and moved to Classic Orchards, we would see this Arakere Lake near Hulimavu junction while passing by. Although the lake was not full of water but definitely some water was there to attract our attention! And some day I was hoping the lake would be full of water…may be after a good monsoon! Little did I know that the lake would die completely. A year later we were tranferred to another city and moved from Bangalore. After more than three years when we returned to our city, I was desperately trying to locate this lake. But I could only see wild bushes with lot of dirt dumped. This was shocking! I started talking to my friends in my layout and enquiring about the lake. Many of them were asking, “Which lake? Where??”  Some of my friends started to recollect and said, “Oh Yes! there was a lake? Whatever happenned to it?” This set me thinking about doing something myself to save this lake before it was completely gone. I spoke to a couple of friends who were interested and we started doing our own survey of the lake, taking pictures, trying to understand the boundary of this lake, because the encroachment is quite heavy on the eastern and southern sides of the lake!

How did the residents and local settlers get the Government authorities to take notice of the issue of encroachment?

There were a few others who were thinking like me and we joined together and started making rounds to the Government agencies and finding out the status of this lake. During the process we met the LDA authorities, BBMP and BDA engineers, the tehshildar and learnt that 10 to 12 cr. budget has been allocated for this lake!! With heavy encroachments on the eastern and southern sides, we made the tehshildar come with her surveyors and BDA officials to take a look around the lake. We are pressurising them to take the lake work on priority.

What has been your greatest challenges in working with the BBMP and in getting support and involvement of the residents?

It is always challenging to get our work done from the Government agencies. Since the lake comes under BDA, we were following up with them. Many of the officials are co-operative and readily share the information. However it’s a herculean task to get things moving. Since various agencies are involved, it’s easy to blame the other. The surveyor has to survey the lake and earmark the boundary of the lake and the encroachments, after which the work starts. Unfortunately this is the main hurdle. We were following up with the Tehshildar to get the survey done, but so far we haven’t got any solid report on this!

To raise awareness in the neighbourhood, we recently organized a human chain around the lake, where a large number of citizens including school children participated. We got good media coverage for this event.We had invited the Corporator, BDA officials, Ashwin Mahesh, Mukunda and Arundhati Nag to share their views.The BDA engineer shared their plan for the lake work with the citizens and promised to start the work immediately without any delay from their side. Prior to this event we met people in the surrounding layouts, RWAs, schools, corporate offices, apartments, shops and mall in the vicinity, talking about the lake and it’s condition, how the ground water is depleting in Bangalore, why is it important to revive the lake, as responsible citizens how we can make it happen etc.. In the schools we organized painting competitions, told story on Bendakaluru and it’s lakes..which was very impactful.

How did you divide yourselves up as a team to work on this project – right from lake maintenance, outreach, promotion etc.?

We are a small group actively involved in this work and each one has his or her own expertise or area of interest. Based on that we have divided our tasks. One of our members Amitabha conducts photography workshops and helps us raise some funds for our activities. Meeta is good in communication, designing our posters, pamphlets etc. Arbind and I are co ordinating with the Government officials and keep the information flowing. Aradhana is our RTI expert! She and Vandana help us spread message and reach out to more people. Amit is our handy man, he is there to help us out during our activites.

What is the current status of the restoration project – bio diversity of flora and fauna, water supply in the neighbourhood, activities around the lake and infrastructure?

The current status is that, apart from fencing around the lake in the non encroached area by the BDA nothing much has been done. BDA is supposed to call for tenders for the next round of work and now they seem to be dragging their feet on this!!

Catch Every Drop is a campaign on sustainable water conservation by The Alternative, sponsored by Arghyam, with partners India Water Portal and Biome Environmental Solutions.

Whether it is the Cauvery river dispute, the unregulated proliferation of bore wells or the death of Bangalore’s beautiful lakes, everyone has a story, an opinion or a question on water. While most people understand and recognize the importance of saving water, not everyone knows how to do it, or even what exactly they can do.

‘Catch Every Drop’ is a showcase of stories of pioneering water conservation work done by corporates, lake restoration groups, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and individuals in Bangalore. These stories, we hope, will inspire you to join this growing community of people who truly care about water, our planet’s most precious resource.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Makepeace is a freelance writer and a make believe selfie model. She formerly served as a Community Editor at The Alternative and now works with an international non profit in Bangalore. The only kind of marathons she loves are the ones on the idiot box. Follow her at @makeysitlhou more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Makepeace is a freelance writer and a make believe selfie model. She formerly served as a Community Editor at The Alternative and now works with an international non profit in Bangalore. The only kind of marathons she loves are the ones on the idiot box. Follow her at @makeysitlhou more

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