How a residents’ group saved Benniganahalli lake from going the Bellandur way

When Benniganahalli lake started frothing in 2017, residents of the nearby Pai Layout pushed BBMP to restore it. The cleaned-up lake bed is now filled by monsoon rains. The residents have also formed a Trust to develop a jogging track and other facilities here in coordination with BBMP

Driving down from Hebbal to Tin Factory, as you cross the Kasturi Nagar flyover, you may occasionally chance upon a lone crane or two, circling over a water body on the left. It may create a pretty picture, but this was not the case until sometime ago.

Situated along the Old Madras road and stretching up to the Tin Factory bus stop is the Benniganahalli lake. Not quite visible from the main road, many citizens had become aware of the lake only when it started frothing a few years back due to the untreated sewage flowing into it from nearby layouts.

Lake turns into cesspool

The past was not so bleak though. Until eight to ten years back, the lake and its surroundings were much cleaner. Scores of migrant birds and cranes used to nest on a small landing in the middle of the water. They fished in the clear water, much to the delight of the spectators who used to gather around the lake for a stroll.

Transition of Benniganahalli lake over the past 17 years. A part of the lake caught fire in 2017. Last year, BBMP cleaned up the lake bed. GIF: Google Earth

Gradually, the water started growing dirtier with garbage and untreated sewage, until the stench was so strong that residents, and even the birds, stopped coming to the lake.

Pai Layout residents take initiative

The case of Bellandur lake still fresh in memory, residents of Pai Layout just across the road decided to join hands with authorities to revive the lake and its surroundings. The members of the Pai Layout Residents Welfare Association (PLRWA), along with KR Puram MLA Byrathi Basavaraj, requested the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) to take up the mammoth task of cleaning up and reviving all 15 acres of the filthy lake.

BBMP had taken charge of the lake from the BDA (Bangalore Development Authority) in 2016. And cleaning up the lake had already been on BBMP’s list for quite some time. But the PLRWA, with the support of Basavaraj, was able to ensure it was taken up on priority. Basavaraj had introduced the BBMP commissioner to the association in 2017. Thereafter, the association secretary N H Subramanian regularly followed up with the Palike on starting the restoration work.

Finally, in January 2018, BBMP took up the task of dredging and desilting the lake, and creating a channel to divert the sewage flowing into the lake. The rejuvenation of the lake cost the BBMP around Rs 3 crore, and took a year to complete. This March, overjoyed residents welcomed a clean lakebed, which was then filled in by rains over the next few months.

Benniganahalli lake filled in by the rains. Pic courtesy: N H Subramanian

Soon after, we charted out a comprehensive plan to improve the surroundings of the lake, and to convert it to the park we had lost.

The main action items of this project included:

  • Cleaning and weeding the lake regularly
  • Monitoring the cleanliness of its surroundings
  • Carrying out plantation drives around the lake, and maintaining the saplings
  • Creating a walking and jogging track around the lake, installing lights, and setting up gymnasium equipment for public use

Some of these initiatives have already taken shape. The first plantation drive organised by PLRWA on June 23rd was a huge success. Over 300 people – including layout residents and volunteers from other parts of the city – planted more than 500 saplings around the lake.

The inauguration ceremony of the plantation activity on June 23rd. MLA Byrathi Basavaraj presided over the event. Pic courtesy: N H Subramanian

Adults and enthusiastic children gathered early in the morning to participate in the drive. BBMP supported the activity by providing digging machines. A few NGOs also extended support.

The event engaged children in the environmental cause. Pic courtesy: N H Subramanian

This June, PLRWA also formed the Benniganahalli Kere Trust, under the leadership of the association’s President R Nagaraj, Secretary N H Subramanian, and Treasurer Muralidharan. The Trust intends to supervise developmental activity around the lake, along with routine maintenance. It would soon enter into a tripartite agreement with the BBMP Lakes Department and the NGO United Way.

“The Lakes Department will arrange a contractor to complete the works (such as jogging track and setting up gym equipment) within nine months. United Way will secure funds for lake development from corporates. Our Trust will monitor the works, and will also collect CSR funds from corporates,” says Subramanian.

The Trust members now scrupulously run routine lake maintenance activities, such as weeding and cleaning, on weekends. Layout residents participate in these, determined to ensure that the initiative gives them back their lost walking trail and park. It seems only a matter of time till the lake and its surroundings become a major attraction again to the public and the birds alike.

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