Agara Lake on track

A few months ago, on 7th July 2013, more than 400 citizens of HSR Layout gathered on the Agara Lake bund for a walkathon and clean-up drive. Ever since the Lake Development Authority (LDA) took back possession of the lake in Apr 2012, various individuals and groups of people had been trying to draw the attention of the authorities towards the deteriorating state of the 98-odd-acre lake, through letters and representations. This was the first visible collective activity on the part of the public, with citizens making personal contributions to hold the event.

Agara Lake is one of the rare natural lakes of Bangalore. Ganeshan M and Jayakrishnan G, residents of the locality, trace its history:

8th century – There is evidence of the existence of Agara Lake (Ref: Changes in Public Commons as a Consequence of Urbanization: The Agara Lake in Bangalore, India – R D’Souza and H Nagendra, Environmental Management, May 2011, Vol 47, Issue 5, Pg 840–850, DOI 10.1007/s00267-011-9658-8).

A few decades ago – The lake is used for irrigation and for drinking water by residents of Agara and other surrounding villages. The rain water from the huge catchment area surrounding the lake keeps it alive and healthy. Over flow from the Madivala Lake reaches Agara Lake through the Raja Kaluve. Overflow from Agara Lake drains into Bellandur Lake. 

Late 1980s/early 1990s – Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) forms HSR Layout.

1990 – 2000 – Rapid infrastructure development around the lake shrinks it. Infrastructure development over the catchment area restricts the inflow.

2000 – BDA’s DPR for Agara Lake restoration is approved.

July 2002 – Lake Development Authority (LDA), an autonomous regulatory body is created through a government order, as a non-profit society for the regeneration and conservation of lakes in and around Bangalore. 

2004 – BDA, together with the Forest Department, restores the lake and erects a fence around it. Hon’ble Chief Minister SM Krishna opens the lake and adjoining park to public. The restored lake has an upstream wetland for filtering incoming water and gates to control water inflow from the Raja Kaluve. The gates are to be opened during the monsoon or pre-monsoon rains, when the contamination of the Raja Kaluve is minimal.

2004/2005 – Many parts of HSR Layout get flooded. The government plans reconstruction of storm water drains and widening of canal near the lake inlet. These works, to be carried out in next few years. 

2005 – Lake handed over to LDA for maintenance and upkeep.

May 2007 – Agara Lake is one of the four lakes leased out to private entities for development and maintenance on PPP model. LDA enters into an agreement with Hyderabad-based Biota Natural Systems Pvt. Ltd. and leases out Agara Lake for 15 years.

2008 – Bangalore based Environment Support Group (ESG) files PIL challenging the legality of lake privatization. 

2009 – The lease with Biota Systems is terminated by LDA as Biota did not meet the service norms set in the contract. Karnataka High Court restrains development work on all the privatized lakes including Agara Lake.

2009 – 2012 – The lake deteriorates at an alarming rate. The development work undertaken to widen the canal disturbs the water inflow. Storm water inlets from HSR get blocked due to bridge construction. Fencing is damaged at number of locations due to over-bridge constructions along west and east boundaries. 

2012 – Verdict is passed by Karnataka High Court in favor of LDA and disposed the PIL from ESG. In the case of the Agara Lake, Karnataka High Court also approves the cancellation of the contact with Biota Systems giving the control of the lake back to LDA. Court directs LDA to hand over the management of lake to an NGO/public trust with active participation from neighborhood welfare groups. 

2013 LDA reaches out to neighborhood RWAs for support. 

****

On 10th July 2013, the Agara Lake Protection and Management Society (ALPMS) was registered as a public society, comprising of citizens interested in the restoration of the lake. In discussion with the LDA, the society has outlined the roles and responsibilities of both, and how they will work together to make the lake area the thriving eco-system that it once was.

There have been a few activities that have been organized around the lake, to make it appealing for people to visit on a regular basis, to increase sensitivity in the neighbourhood, and to shake the apathy out of the administration.  

25th Jul 2013 – Environmentalists Dr Yellappa Reddy and Dr Harini Nagendra addressed the citizens from the neighbourhood, including some from the Agara village, at the Agara Lake premises. Dr Reddy pointed out that there were upto 40 species of birds present in the Agara Lake during a research study between 1983 and 1987. He stressed the need for rejuvenation of the lake’s ecosystem with minimum human intervention. Dr Harini called for coexistence of all stake holders with the biodiversity, with active participation from the Agara villagers. (Pic: Jayakrishnan)

July 2013 – The iconic Children-Globe-Rooster statue that one sees along the fencing was freed of bushes and shrubs. (Pic: Jayakrishnan)


July 2013 – The 2.1 km walking/jogging track was cleared with the help of labour and JCB, paid for by a few citizens. (Pic: Jayakrishnan)

15th Aug 2013 – HSR 10K Freedom Run was organized by  Kaagaz Foundation and BASECAMP Adventures Pvt Ltd, with Agara Lake as one of the beneficaries

5th Sep 2013 – United Way of Bengaluru under its “Wake the Lake” campaign to rejuvenate the city’s dying lakes, brought over about 150 volunteers from a reputed corporate. The team did a lot of de-weeding, planting and cleaning the periphery of the lake. 

7th Sep 2013 – Chief Minister Siddaramaiah visited the lake. (Pic: Jayakrishnan)
Kavitha Reddy’s report on the visit can be read here

Oct 2013 – About 230 fruit-bearing tree saplings (like peepal, jamun, etc.) were transported from the lake bund and planted on the island. (Pics: Jayakrishnan)

This monsoon has seen hundreds of birds at Agara Lake, a sight that has been missing the past few years. The most striking is the presence of a large number of Spot-billed Pelicans, an indicator that there is an abundance of fish in the lake waters. 

Spot-billed pelicans at Agara Lake (Pic: Jayakrishnan)

Pelicans and Coots (Pic: Jayakrishnan)

With the help of a few experts, members of ALPMS have prepared a comprehensive report on the current condition of the lake with proposals for its revival. The report covers the different aspects that influence the lake, including water inflow, water quality, wetland, waste weirs, storm water drains, fencing, vegetation, weeds, security and additional requirements. ALPMS is working closely with the LDA to help develop the final plans for the lake. 

To keep track of developments at Agara Lake, follow the facebook page SaveAgaraLake, the Agara Lake website www.agaralake.org (https://sites.google.com/site/agaralakeonline) that is being developed, and join the email group saveagaralake@googlegroups.com.

 

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