Communities take command of lake cleanups in Bengaluru

Groups of people work with the local corporators, to manually clean the lake every weekend. What else is happening, in Bengaluru's lake rejuvenation scene?

Over the last few years, many of Bengaluru’s lakes have gone through rejuvenation processes as described in the first part of this series, that completely transforms and restores lakes to beautiful common areas and thriving ecosystems. Behind every lake is a group of community members pushing for rejuvenation, government assistance or simply rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty in an effort to save a lake.

Transforming a dead or dying lake is no small feat. Many hands have their stake in the rejuvenation. For many lakes, the rejuvenation process is a result of local community members and groups that dedicate their energy to the clean up of their neighborhood lake.

“We have several citizen groups who are very actively involved,” said Seema Sharma. She is a resident of Bellandur area, involved in waste management issues. “They have made trusts and organisations. Everyday I receive seven to eight complaints, if they find anything happening along Bellandur lake bund, along with photographs.”

Friends of Lakes, a prominent Bengaluru environmental group, involved in twenty-two lake revivals, believes only the local community can save a lake. Friends of Lakes oversees how local lake communities are taking care of their lakes. It is completely volunteer-based and the group receives donations from community members to help complete lake projects.

“If you want sustainably, then it is the local the nearest person who is affected by the lake either in a good way or in a bad way they need to be involved,” said Ramprasad V, co-founder of Friends of Lakes.

Friends of Lakes acts as a pressure group on the BBMP and forwards plans and ideas for the rejuvenation process by creating documents for the government based on inputs of local communities. The group enlists community members, local farmers and fisherman to act as the eyes and ears during the rejuvenation process and beyond.

Volunteering to clean up lakes

There are volunteers all over Bengaluru that wake up at the crack of dawn every weekend to pull weeds and pick up waste at their neighborhood lake. Rejuvenated or not, lakes all over the city are being taken care of by community members passionate about maintaining the lake’s health.

Volunteers from Kaggadasapura Lake spend every Sunday morning waist deep in the lake pulling weeds and collecting garbage. For some of them, this is a form of protest against the BBMP — they hope the lake will be given much needed attention and eventually undergo rejuvenation.

Neighbors of Hulimavu Lake have a similar approach. A group of over forty volunteers works with the local corporator to manually clean the lake every Saturday and Sunday. They are given some equipment from their local corporator, but most of it supplied by the volunteers as they clean a lake awaiting rejuvenation.

This is just a glimpse of the number of groups in Bengaluru doing similar work on neighborhood lakes. Some are working in sewage and weed filled water bodies hoping to make progress while awaiting rejuvenation and still others raising money and attracting volunteers to maintain post-rejuvenation lakes.

Aside from partnering with corporates for funding renovation and maintenance projects, lake groups are raising funds by putting on events and recruiting new volunteers. Puttenahalli Neighborhood Lake Trust (PNLIT) goes door to door to raise money for maintenance projects, puts on events like reading children’s books at the lake and benefit concerts.

All of the lake groups associated with environmental group Friends of Lakes are encouraged to host events at their lake twice a month. These events can range from picking up garbage along the walkways to cultural festivities where everyone comes together to celebrate the lake. Similarly, the lakes maintained by Mahadevapura Environment Protection and Development Trust (MAPSAS) host festivals, school field trips and lake cleanups throughout the year.

Storytelling events for children are common and have been held at Kaikondrahalli and Puttenhalli lake for locals to enjoy.

Kere Habba lake festivals are held each year to celebrate Bengaluru’s great water bodies. Events bring awareness to the lakes, encourage the local community to participate and bring an appreciation for everyone’s local lake. Every year Kaikondrahalli hosts an all day event and this year citizens even crowded the lakeside of the infamous Bellandur Lake for its first event.

Earlier this year Vibhutipura Lake hosted a marathon run to raise funds for lake rejuvenation projects and to attract the attention of elected officials.

The second annual Soul Kere Science Faire was held recently. The highlight of it was, teaching kids how to take care of the lakes and bringing awareness to lake conservation in the community by allowing them to conduct experiments and present their own science projects.

There is an e-group named the Save Bengaluru Lakes group, where lake enthusiasts connect with each other and learn from experiences. Lake warriors across the city celebrate their small and big successes, alongwith seeking or sharing useful information.

This is just a small fraction of the efforts done by lake communities. But there are still many questions to answer and obstacles to tackle before Bengaluru’s lakes are entirely saved. In the third part of the series we look at the future of the lakes.

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