Saturday, April 03, 2010

They know how to help themselves

They know how to help themselves

A layout is shaping up in Padmanabhanagar as a role model for others. Its residents have changed the face of their area by getting involved. Today, they are enjoying better life after a long and hard battle against land sharks, encroachers and litterbugs to preserve their lake, trees, and surroundings, writes Shilpa CB

Shilpa CB

The residents of Bharat Housing Co-operative Society Layout in Padmanabhanagar have a lot to show off with pride: broad avenues, a playground, a lake being restored, and a park where a walking track is being laid out.
But to enjoy these civic amenities, they had to wage battles for over a decade.
"When we were first entrusted with this area, it was uninhabitable. The stench, the mosquitoes, and the wilderness were hard to deal with. It was a hotbed for nefarious activities. Debris from everywhere used to be dumped around the drain. Chain-snatching incidents were rampant. Auto drivers refused to make trips here," Muralidhar Padubidri, secretary of the local residents' welfare association, recalls.
The list of woes was endless. But the residents were undeterred. They got together and decided to give the 45-acre layout a complete makeover.
First on their hands was Dorekere Lake that land grabbers were eyeing. With help from their MLA, the residents managed to ward off people with vested interests and got his word on turning the 28.5 acre area into a place of recreation at a cost of Rs8.5 crore.
"The lake had fallen to neglect for almost 25 years. We had to make countless rounds of government offices to get the work done," says association president Range Gowda who is credited with spearheading all efforts. That Gowda, a superintendent in the horticulture department, was well-connected with officials in government department helped move files.
A walking track will come up around the lake. There will be boating and swimming facilities. Two islands will be created. There will even be a sewage treatment plant to make sure that the water entering the lake is not dirty, says RT Dhananjay, one of the directors of the association.
Most of the lake had been encroached; boulders and stairs still lie around as proof of what the water body once must have been. The lake has an interesting history too. "There's a temple on the other side of the lake. When King Shivaji married for the second time, he used to visit the lake," says Padubidri.
Now as part of the beautification drive, the catchment area will get a bamboo bridge and a small tank for immersion of Ganesha idols.
"We've planned it in such a way that there is water round the year," he says. But a few problems still persist. "The work is being delayed. So when the rains arrive, it covers the mess and the people responsible for the project work can get away. Also, part of the walking track is being laid with silt from the lake. It will soon collapse," says Dhananjay.
One of the first to be allotted a plot in the area, Dhananjay says the layout has many accomplishments to its credit. "Tippers used to come and dump debris in vacant spaces. One day, a few developers swooped in to build apartments on the civic amenity sites. We had to do something," Padubidri recalls.
Together, with no help from any government body, the residents created a playground for children. It took 5,200 truck-loads of mud and seven months. That deterred the builders. Eventually, a councillor got a fence built around it.
Another factor that has made moving around here much simpler for residents is a bridge on the giant drain. The 20-ft deep drain once infested by mosquitoes is gone and a park is taking its place. The bridge restricted to pedestrians connects two roads. A 5-acre park is also shaping up.
"Boulders lying around have been left untouched. We are planning a Japanese-style park here," says Dhananjay.
Residents are carefully preserving the trees that attract 23 varieties of birds. The layout with 630 plots is not enroute to any other part of the city. This makes it an island free from traffic hurdles. "Once we enter the area, we just don't feel like leaving. We love the peace and quiet here," says Padubidri.
There are plenty of lessons to learn from the residents here. "We've had to fight for everything, including drinking water. We had to get organised to improve the quality of life. It was a long and hard battle," the residents say.
The battle was won by engaging political parties, taking part in the electoral process, building a rapport with government officials and being active citizens.
"We promised our support to the candidate who would fulfil our demands. Minister R Ashoka had promised to help us out in every way if he became minister. That's what happened," says Dhananjay.
The voter turnout in the layout in the last three elections is said to be the highest in the city. "We don't affiliate ourselves to any political party. We've won over civic officials with persuasion; coaxed a verbal agreement from our representatives," Padubidri says.
In a few months, the landscape of this layout will be transformed dramatically. It will then be called a 'model layout' for several reasons. But residents are not celebrating yet as there is much more to be done before they rest.


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