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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Lakes of Bengaluru: Rapid city expansion choking Kachanayakanahalli lake

A weekly look at the health of some of the lesser-known lakes in and around Bengaluru. First up, Kachanayakanahalli lake.

Written by Aksheev Thakur | Bengaluru |
Updated: November 14, 2021 2:26:12 pm
The lake has not only served irrigation purposes but also helped prevent floods in the region for years.

Long before the city of Bengaluru became dependent on water pumped from the Cauvery River – located nearly 90 km from the city– for its drinking water needs, an elaborate natural lake system that exists in and around the city was the key source of water for the city.

The terrain of Bengaluru with its gentle hills and valleys provides a natural drainage system with small streams originating from ridges forming major streams that flow into major and minor lakes all around the city.

Over the years, however, hundreds of lakes have disappeared. The main city alone had 272 lakes around 50 years ago but there are only around 168 lakes remaining now. According to a statement made by the Karnataka government in the state legislature two months ago, 1,100 of the 1,500 lakes in Bengaluru and its larger urban and rural districts have been encroached.

The man-made lake that has been in existence for more than 100 years is feeling the pain of rapid urbanisation and expansion of the city into the rural corners on its outskirts.

One of the consequences of lakes becoming prime real estate and even government agencies taking over lakes to set up bus stands, stadiums, research centres is a sharp decline in groundwater in the city. An Indian Institute of Science (IISc) report says that in localities where lakes existed groundwater was available at depths of 200-300 feet a decade ago compared to the current scenario where borewells have to go to nearly 1,500 feet down to find water in most areas in the city.

Though lakes form a key component of the ecosystem of the city of Bengaluru – including its salubrious weather – only a very few lakes are known publicly. And when they are in danger only the local communities tend to be aware. The Indian Express takes a weekly look at the health and conservation measures that are being taken to protect some of the lesser known lakes in and around Bengaluru.

Kachanayakanahalli lake, Bengaluru Rural district

Two decades ago the fresh water of the 23-acre Kachanayakanahalli lake irrigated paddy fields in the Anekal taluk of rural Bengaluru, around 25 km from the city. Today, the toxic foam and stench emanating from the lake suggest it is being choked to death. The man-made lake that has been in existence for more than 100 years is feeling the pain of rapid urbanisation and expansion of the city into the rural corners on its outskirts.

The lake has not only served irrigation purposes but also helped prevent floods in the region for years.

Of the 23 acres over which the lake is spread, nearly 1.27 acres has been encroached by builders and other private persons. A team of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), which collected the samples from the lake in May this year, reported that sewage streams were now starting to choke the lake.

Parts of the lake – especially its periphery where compound walls have been erected – and the lake bed have become dump yards.

Parts of the lake – especially its periphery where compound walls have been erected – and the lake bed have become dump yards.

The water quality index of the lake is unsatisfactory.

An environmental officer from the state pollution control board, Asif Khan, said one major reason for the degradation of the Kachanayakanahalli lake is the contamination of the storm water drains (SWD) that bring water into the lake.

“Sewage which enters the Yarandahalli village SWD passes through the township area and joins the Kachanayakanahalli lake directly without any sewage treatment. Hence, this lake is also getting contaminated now,” the environmental officer said.

Local residents and farmers in the area point out that the lake which once acted as a flood regulator now frequently overflows during heavy downpour since the network of stormwater drains has been encroached to build roads and private layouts.

A recent incident of flooding in Anekal sent local residents to the doorstep of local government authorities. When the revenue department checked the status of stormwater drains flowing into the Kachanayakanahalli lake by comparing the existing drains with a 1923 village survey map, it was found that they had shrunken massively.

The drains, which were originally 20 to 30 feet in width, have narrowed down to three or four feet on account of construction of car parking areas, greenhouse sheds and roads.

The water quality index of the lake is unsatisfactory.

“The construction of a private layout a decade ago created problems. Kachanayakanahalli lake had a sluice gate. The sluice gate was deliberately closed resulting in the drying up of SWD and the lake. This was followed by another ecological disaster of encroaching the SWD and leaving no buffer zone either around the lake or the drains,” said social activist Captain Santhosh Kumar who is involved in conservation of lakes in the Anekal region.

“The local panchayat does not monitor the entry of sewage into the lake which is a violation of the Water Act of 1974,” he said.

Sources in the Anekal Planning Authority said builders in the region deviated from approved plans for constructions leading to encroachment of storm water drains near the lake.

“Recently, I visited the spot where the reported violations were mentioned and verified the accusations. We found merit in the accusations made by the activists. The drains have indeed been narrowed and no buffer zone has been left around the lake,” the Chairman of the Anekal Planning Authority K Jayanna told The Indian Express.

“A showcause notice was issued to a builder. We intimated the panchayat development officer (PDO) of the gram panchayat. We have asked the Assistant Director of Land Records (ADLR) – Anekal taluk to conduct a survey of storm water drains and buffer zones to ascertain the extent of violations and to submit a report. We will reclaim the drains,” he said.

Kachanayakanahalli lake

  • Total extent of the lake: 23 acres
  • Area encroached: 1.27 acres
  • Water quality index: unsatisfactory
  • Location: Anekal
  • Major issues: Entry of sewage and garbage dumping, storm water drains encroached, construction activities in the buffer zone of the lake.

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