Monday, February 22, 2010

Lost! City drains its lakes, Bengaluru left high and dry

Lost! City drains its lakes, Bengaluru left high and dry
Bengaluru, hundred ye

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Rapid urbanisation has choked many of Bengaluru's lakes. Plans are afoot to develop a few of them, but it may be too little too late. While government agencies are yet to resolve basic issues such as the ownership of the lakes, the water bodies are drying up at an alarming pace, report Amit S. Upadhye and Madhumitha B.

Six Bengaluru had set a precedent by constructing tanks across the city, paving the way for a pleasant climate round the year. Now many of the tanks, have been buried beneath commercial buildings and residential layouts, irrevocably chang- ing the waterscape of `Gar- den City'.
The tanks had been set up initially to help irrigate the city. However, urbanisa- tion brought about a change in the role of these water bodies. A few decades ago, roads on the outskirts which used to be lined with lakes were favourite weekend cycling haunts. The healthy aquatic life in the tanks also ensured the presence of several migratory birds.

"Tanks, built 600 years ago, had a specific role -- irrigation. But now that irrigation is no longer nec- essary in the city, we have to find a new role for the water bodies to retain their importance in the present scenario," said S. Vish- wanath, rainwater harvest- ing expert. Pointing out the multi-dimensional purpos- es that tanks serve, he said, "Tanks can store water from storm water run-offs, act as repositories for treat- ed water, replenish ground water levels, provide an ec- ological space to nurture biodiversity, balance te- mperature and weather as well as facilitate recre- ation."

However, the expert added that this called for the setting up of an institu- tion which will take into account the modern roles of the tank that takes into account all the modern roles of the tank. Reiterat- ing the need to conserve the city's 50 odd-tanks -- the only ones to survive from the tanks numbering more than 250 in 1961, Vijay Krishna, director of India Water Portal, an ini- tiative by Arghyam, said that inter-linking of vari- ous small water bodies to larger ones are crucial to avoid floods and store water. To help create a long-term plan for tanks in the city, he has been work- ing with students to docu- ment Bengaluru's lost lakes.

With the role of water tanks having multiplied to meet the needs of a chang- ing city, authorities too have to ensure that rapid urbanisation does not drain the city's remaining water resources. Conserving tanks is important for the city to maintain its ecological bal- ance. Also, recharging groundwater, the cheapest water resource, will help restore water sup- ply.

S. Vishwanath rainwater harvesting expert Historically, lakes in the city are linked and finally end at rajakaluves. But with illegal con- structions occupy- ing most major drains, it will be hard to restore con- nectivity between the lakes. However, efforts will be made to do so in the coming days.

Senior forest officer There used to be 1,200 lakes in Ben- galuru but we have very few left today.
Pollution and encroachments have also become major obstacles.
Apart from restora- tion work, we require location specific politi- cal policies.

A.N. Yellappa Reddy environmen- talist


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