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Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022

Unsung heroes: Ram Prasad on a mission to protect lakes in Bengaluru

Friends of Lakes, a citizen’s collective that Prasad co-founded in 2011, succeeded in getting the BBMP to disallow idol immersion in the city's lakes.

Bangalore, BengaluruPrasad has worked on solid-waste management policy and alongside the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to stop idol immersion in the lakes.

Vidyranyapura, located in the northwest part of Bengaluru, is where several activists who took up the cudgels to protect lakes and trees in the Karnataka capital in the late 1980s reside.

In 1989, a 12-year-old Ram Prasad was involved with his friends and senior citizens of Vidyaranyapura in environmental and conservation activities. Little did he imagine then that his work would one day help to make him the co-founder of one of the largest lake groups in the city. He co-founded Friends of Lakes, a citizen’s collective, in 2011.

“Most activities in childhood were limited to spending time at shores of the lakes and protecting and planting trees. One of the things I would like to state is that we (my friends and I) learnt about conservation at a very young age. Our love for nature and Bengaluru drives us today. In 2011 my friends and I grouped together and formed Friends of Lakes (FoL),” Prasad recalls.

The lake group was formed to protect and rejuvenate the Vidyaranyapura and Doddabommasandra lakes located in Vidyaranyapura. “It was formed with the aim of protecting these two lakes and then we started our fight to protect and conserve other lakes in the city. We are an informal group but have focused on the conservation of waterbodies and their biodiversity. This happened under the guidance of Vishwanath S from Biome. We earned the trust of the citizens and government officials since we never had any malafide intention,” he says.

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Prasad proudly stated that eco-enthusiasts from other parts of the country like Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Hyderabad also seek inputs from the collective.

“One does not require any money to become a part of FoL. The only thing that matters here is a passion to conserve the waterbodies. We are completely apolitical. We never tried raising any money for conservation. FoL is very democratic. There have been occasions when certain decisions taken by members were not agreeable to me but we went with their decisions,” he says.

In the past two years when the nation was ravaged by a pandemic, Prasad organised courses in lake and conservation with the help of research and academic institutions. “ATREE, Biome, Water Institute at Bengaluru University and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) have played an integral role in the success of FOL,” Prasad says.

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Prasad has worked on solid-waste management policy and alongside the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to stop idol immersion in the lakes.

“The entry of untreated sewage into the lakes is a major issue that bothers the city. A few years ago, I suggested that separate ponds should be used for idol immersion. As a pilot, the BBMP used it in Yelahanka and after its success, it was replicated across the city. Today lakes are not used for idol immersion. It was a good step on the part of the government to have stopped the use of plaster of paris idols,” he says.

In 2018 he was called by the Jammu and Kashmir government to work on solid-waste management solutions.
Prasad along with Vishwanath launched the Million Wells Recharge campaign in 2018 to address water scarcity in Bengaluru.

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“The recharge of hundred-year-old wells in Cubbon Park is the shining example of the success of the campaign.

India Cares Foundation wanted to clean a pond in Cubbon Park in 2017 and while working on it we came across seven wells in a dilapidated condition in the park. These wells were a hundred years old. The recharge of these wells has made us understand that it could be used as a flood mitigation strategy as well. Today the park is not dependent on tankers as it utilises water from the wells to maintain the plants. We got the Manu Vaddar community, traditional well-diggers, to recharge the wells. There are other places as well in Bengaluru where we are implementing the concept of open wells and this will replenish the groundwater in the city,” Prasad adds.
Last month he collaborated with another social activist, Captain Santhosh Kumar (retd), to restore the interconnectivity of lakes in Anekal through the restoration of storm-water drains.

The only way lakes in the city could be maintained is through community participation, according to Prasad.

“Without the support of the communities, the waterbodies in the city cannot be maintained. We need to understand that lakes are not for the purpose of jogging and having picnics around, but they should be treated as flood mitigation zones in a topography like Bengaluru. This is the reason I always say the detailed project report should always be prepared in consultation with environmentalists, hydrologists and geologists etc,” he concludes.

First published on: 24-09-2022 at 03:00:01 pm
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