Thursday, April 15, 2010

Knight in armour comes to save lake

Knight in armour comes to save lake

Halasur's civic leader vows to resolve issues confronting two worlds

Arun Dev



"My ward has two worlds," says Halasur ward's poll winner Uday Kumar as he hits the road with DNA on Wednesday on his thanksgiving ward yatra. "They are the upper middle class and the rest. All have civic problems. But what is common for all is the need to rejuvenate their eye," he says in a figurative way of speech. What Uday refers to the eye is the city's pride, Ulsoor Lake.
Halasur village and the lake are the gifts of Vijayanagar kings to Kempegowda, the founder of Bangalore. The fact itself makes it the most precious wealth the city's founder had bequeathed to the successive generations. "But how was he to know greedy people would mindlessly leave the magnificent lake a shadow of its former self?" Uday asks aloud.
As we drive to the lake, he stops at shops and crossings to exchange greetings with people. He thanks everybody profusely. "I'm proud to represent a ward that holds Ulsoor Lake and the Gurudwara, the city's only Sikh shrine."
As he moves away from groups, Uday says he has been meeting residents and their associations and local NGOs to formulate a development plan for the ward that consists of Halasur, Gupta Layout, Ulsoor Lake and Sivan Chetty garden area. Of this, Ulsoor Lake has rich, upper middle class composition and Gupta Layout and Sivan Chetty have lower middle class and slums. "I cannot administer the same remedy to both. I must study and do things properly," he assures himself.
The people he meets on the way talk of water logging and transport problem. Umpteen buses crisscross the area but residents do not benefit because of the unscientific stops and routes. "I must walk a kilometre to come to the nearest bus stop," says Amanath Sheikh, a resident of Gupta Layout who works as a clerk at a realty firm.
The corporator agrees. "Anyone staying in Anna Swami Mudaliyaar Road, close to Ulsoor Lake, has to walk over three kilometres to the nearest bus stop, and most of the autorickshaw drivers would not take passengers to the bus stops. Even if they do, the charges will be unreasonable," Uday says. He has received scores of complaints about BMTC's waywardness and also the rudeness of autorickshaw drivers who seem to follow their own rules.
Halasur is one of the entry points to the city's Central Business Zone. Therefore, it bears heavy vehicle movement. "Anything happens to the city, we bear the brunt," bewails a studio owner who has come out to greet the corporator. "Whenever traffic is diverted elsewhere — and that happens too often — Halasur bears the burden." says Ranjeeth R, a resident. Uday nods in agreement.
Complaints about BMTC galore as residents exchange views. Buses do not stop at Ulsoor Lake. Lack of bus shelter is another issue. "We often have to go to MG Road, Manipal Centre or Trinity Circle to get buses," says Ramamurthy, a resident of MV Garden.
Understandably, his yatra turns into an occasion to gather people's complaints and hurt feelings. Loss of greenery is due to indiscriminate cutting of trees for flimsy reasons. "We've lost so much of greenery in recent times. You will be 'baked' if you stand a few moments in the vicinity of the Philips company on Kensington Road. Remember, these are the places which had abundant tree cover not long ago. We want the greenery restored," Stephan Anand, a resident of the area, tells the corporator.
Water logging is the bane of Gupta Layout residents. The Palike alone is not responsible for this. So much unlawful construction takes place that this low-lying area has little leeway for water to flow. In rains, it is hell, say residents.
The gurudwara that attracts thousands and its vicinity face traffic gridlocks which Uday wants to solve.
As the day is getting hotter and the corporator wants to attend meetings, he cuts short the yatra. On his way back, like a homing pigeon, he reverts to the Ulsoor Lake issue.
Having been born and bred here, he has studied the lake's problems. "Studies have established the presence of high concentration of zinc and other metal contents in water samples," he says. Fish is all gone and the water stinks. "This once beautiful lake is becoming one big mass of stale water. It's sad," he says.
This lake is fed by three drains at different locations; the first drain is from the Madras Engineering Group Centre, the second drain is from Jeevanahalli and the third is from Doddagunta. They traverse through Kattariyamma, Godhandappa, Munivenkattappa, and Muthamma gardens and New Corporation Colony. All these areas are within 1 km from the lake. Solutions have only brought more problems. "A bund was built to prevent solid waste getting into the lake but the accumulated waste of four years has not yet been removed," says the corporator.
"They say the cleaning has not happened because there was no tender called for the cleaning up of the lake for the past four years," Uday turns a complainant now. As loyal protege of former corporator, M Saravana, with whose blessings he got through, Uday attributes a quote to his guru, " May you fulfil my dream of a healthy, beautiful lake and prosperous Halsur, our home."

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