In the Budget 2022-23, the Karnataka government announced that the Amruth Nagaroththana scheme will be implemented at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore in the next three years under which, infrastructural development and restoration of lakes will be taken up. The civic body of Bengaluru, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), has also kept aside Rs 40 crore for the annual maintenance of the storm water drain (SWD).
Despite all the allocations, the lakes of Bengaluru are crying for dire attention and the civic body is citing lack of funds and displaying helplessness in restoring the waterbodies. With the monsoon approaching next month, the citizens are waiting for the development of the lakes so that these waterbodies could be used as flood mitigation centres.
K R Puram Lake
After a decade of protests and multiple appeals to restore the 120-year-old manmade K R Puram Lake, also known as the Vengaiahna kere, the civic body officials accompanied by Urban Development Minister Byrathi Basavaraj, conducted the ‘bhoomi puja’ and announced the restoration of the lake in January this year. The residents were hopeful that the lake would be restored in a year but with the slow pace of work by the BBMP, they fear that the lake would soon disappear into oblivion.
Residents say that the announcement made with a huge pomp is yet to culminate into action. They also point out that multiple cycle rallies and protests to highlight the plight of the waterbody did manage to draw the attention of the officials but nothing was done. The stench emanating from the lake is so strong that a person passing by the lake has to cover his nose. The waterbody still continues to receive a heavy inflow of sewage.
Reminiscing his childhood days of swimming in the lake, Balaji Raghotham, a lake activist said, “The lake is spread in approximately 65 acre of area. It used to have such pristine water that we used to swim and drink the water directly from the lake. In the past one decade, the condition of the lake has worsened. We have been fighting for the restoration of the lake for a long time. The BBMP, under pressure from the local residents, had announced the restoration of the lake but the work is moving at a snail’s pace. Moreover, hardly Rs 4 crore was allotted for the restoration of the lake when the truth is that it needs a lot of money. I am not happy with the way the work is progressing.”
“We challenge the authorities to stand near the lake for a minute. The sewage overflows into the lake. I am seeing the lake dying before my eyes. It is painful,” he added.
According to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board’s (KSPCB) the water quality index data, K R Puram Lake is classified as Class E (irrigation, industrial cooling, controlled waste disposal) and has unsatisfactory water quality. The residents say that the deterioration in the water quality has been witnessed over the years owing to a disregard for the upkeep of the historic lake.
It is learnt from the BBMP that Rs 8 crore was allocated to restore the lake. However, due to Covid the fund was slashed. The Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the lakes read that the wetlands will also be constructed alongside a children’s play area, sedimentation pond, yoga platform, toilets and walkway bund.
The Karnataka Forest Department was the custodian of the lake. Last year, the custody was transferred to the civic body.
Another local resident, Purshottam, said “We have gone on a hunger strike, made human chains and conducted awareness camps to highlight the worsening condition of the lake; the government made promises but nothing happened. The Lake Development Authority and the BBMP made plans to restore the lake but nothing happened. The lake will soon die. Rs 2 crore was alone allotted for the fencing but that has not happened. The lake in the early 1970s was so clean that the people used to swim and today it stinks. This lake is a lifeline.”