One man’s seven-day effort to preserve Gubbalala lake

BBMP may have planted saplings, but the efforts of one man has ensured that they do not die. All it took was seven days to bring about changes.

For the record, Gubbalala Lake, located in Raghavendra Layout close to Vajarahalli Metro Station, is an eight-acre 10 gunta waterbody. In reality, it occupies just four acres and 20 gunta. It is suspected that about two acres of the lake’s land have been encroached upon. The lake has four inlets and one outlet, with a walkway length of 810 meters and a main bund length of 160 metres. The catchment area is about two square kms.

The lake is situated in the 110 villages scheme/areas of BWSSB (BBMP vide a notification in the year 2008 acquired gram panchayats with 110 villages under its jurisdiction). Laying of underground sewage lines and stormwater drain works were taken up under the Kaveri Stage V project, which began in 2018. The target completion date is 2023. Till 2020, sewage used to flow into the lake through the open drains from adjacent residential layouts/properties, thereby reducing the water holding area to less than 1.5 acres, as silt and debris accumulated over the past 10 years.

Post-rejuvenation

This lake was rejuvenated by the BBMP Lakes department between 2020 and 2021 with a budget of Rs 3.5 crore. The works consisted of desilting, earthen bund creation and stone pitching, fencing and a 3-meter pathway with kurb stones etc.

Under the Amruta Nagarothana Scheme for Bengaluru, a tender for landscape development with the digging of one borewell at an estimated cost of Rs 50 lakh was floated by BBMP in April/May 2022. However, no further progress is seen on this tender.

water in the lake after rejuvenation
Pre and post-rejuvenation of Gubbalala lake. Pic: Gautam Kamath

Read more: Whom do you call to fix your lake?


While BBMP fixes, BWSSB spoils

Post monsoon of 2022, the BBMP forest department planted about 600 saplings of local species, which is expected to increase the green cover substantially in the coming years, as well as being a nesting ground for birds. And with the lake being made fit for use by daily walkers from September/October 2022, BBMP deployed home guards for the security of the lake as well as walkers.

However, due to incomplete UGD (underground drainage) and SWD(stormwater drain) work by BWSSB and BBMP, respectively, sewage influx into the lake increased during the rains of October-December. The main inlet channel / rajakaluve from Vajarahalli and Balaji Layout (both in ward 198) still carries sewage, which is bound to overflow into the lake during the monsoon.


Read more: A residential layout achieves freedom from water tankers and saves lakhs


The effort by one man

Looking at the apathy in maintaining the lake, I took it upon myself to address the following:

  1. Watering the tree saplings at least once a week till the first showers
  2. Cleaning of the pathway and bund area
  3. Regular removal of fallen dry leaves
  4. Attending to the broken fence
  5. Cleaning of the stormwater drain (along the periphery of the lake – within the lake boundary)
  6. Stopping the ingress of sewage into the rajakaluve and SWD
  7. Providing power supply to the security cabin and replacing the broken chair
torn fencing repaired
Before and after: The fence in Gubbalala lake. Pic: Gautam Kamath
Interior and exterior of the cabin
The power supply was provided to the security cabin in Gubbalala lake. Pic: Gautam Kamath

The first task was connecting with the person who was in charge of lakes at the BBMP. The Assistant Engineer was open to the complaints coming directly under her jurisdiction. She immediately acted, not only on putting the maintenance contractor to clean the lake area, but also sharing the contact number of the agency. Within three days of interaction, a labour force was found cleaning the walkway and removing fallen leaves. Also, the broken fence was redone. Cleaning of the stormwater drain is expected to be taken up soon.

The officer, after a lot of follow-ups, informed me that even though the saplings are planted by the BBMP Forest department and they are responsible for watering and maintaining them, she would try to get them watered by the lake maintenance contractor. However, this did not work out as the contractor was not able to arrange tractor tankers, even though I arranged crowd-funded water from a nearby bore-well water supplier.

After this failed attempt, I finally reached out to the concerned BBMP Forest Officer to water the saplings. Further, five days of follow-up finally resulted in the samplings being watered by the BBMP forest department contractor for Bommanahalli Zone, under which the lake falls. The contractor has promised to carry out regular watering.

Efforts to reach the BBMP Horticulture department to understand the status of the Landscape and Borewell tender floated in April 2022, were not successful. This is next on my agenda.

watering the plants on the periphery
Tankers deployed to water the plants in Gubbalala lake. Pic: Gautam Kamath

The next two major tasks are:

  • Getting the stormwater drains, leading to the lake inlet, being desilted through BBMP. The plan is to take these up at the Ward Committee meetings
  • Stopping sewage ingress into the stormwater drains in coordination with BWSSB

Overall, in seven days, I could bring about small changes and this now motivates me to work more for public causes.

This article is part of the Citizen Journalism for Changemakers-CJC Programme, which was conducted from February to March 2023. This programme was supported by Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies.

Also read:

Comments:

  1. Usha says:

    Hello sir …are there any volunteers services in cleaning lakes

    • Gautam says:

      We our selves need to volunteer. Start alone with plastic removal. People will surely join. Build your team.

  2. Harsha shiva says:

    This is called going above and beyond when authorities fail to do their job without shake up from people who are honest and does public work as their own.

    Hats off for the effort.

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