Friday, May 31, 2013

Agara Lake – On the Edge

Heaps of debris dumped around, broken fence, reeking water, unkempt garden, tons of garbage, floating plastic are the striking first visuals of Agara Lake. Post the landmark judgment and cancellation of PPP lease in Feb 2012, lake was handed over to Lake Development Authority, very little rather nothing has been done since then.

An early morning walk around the lake is a painful experience, construction workers and laborers carrying water bottles looking for a spot or young boys jumping across the fence to attend nature call is a common scene. If one decides to ignore all that and walks towards the water treatment plant which is no more functional, one cannot miss noticing a new entrance for the tractors carrying debris from various construction sites. The excess debris dumping has blocked any possible flow of the drainage water into the treatment plant area, ensuring that all the money spent on the treatment plant went straight into the drain. 

The lake that once attracted several birds and was a favorite walking/jogging area for many residents across HSR Layout, Jakkasandra, Iblur and Koramangala is completely abandoned. Who wants to start the day walking around piles of stinking garbage or watching people carrying water bottles or even worst - bare bums?

Many concerned Citizen and Eco groups worked relentlessly, gathering support, meeting authorities and demanding action but got nothing more than a list of excuses, with no plan-of-action or timeline to fix the deteriorating situation of the lake.

Ask about the plan for the lake, maze of administrative complexities are in full display, here is just a sample:
  • Maintenance of storm water drains across the layouts is with one authority but ensuring underground sewage pipes are not leaked into storm water drainage that feeds the treatment plant of lake is with the other.
  • Ensuring the garbage is not dumped around the lake is with one, cleaning the existing garbage around and inside the lake area is with the other.
  • The technical responsibility of implementation the water treatment plant is with one authority but the responsibility of the lake and its financial requirements lies with the other.
  • Tree plantation, gardening, introducing fishes into the lake, lighting, security are the responsibility of an altogether different multiple authorities.

Added to depressing saga of the lake are the anti-social elements, who have made the lake area their safe hideout or should I say trade joint. Chain snatchers, gamblers, drinking gangs, prostitution rackets are all out in open with no fear of law or of any authorities what so ever. One can blame the open access due to broken fencing around the lake, but in reality every authority and elected representative in the locality have chosen to ignore the lake, and ignorance is indeed bliss?

Today, as I write the faith of Agara Lake hangs in balance more than ever, the monsoon which is the major source of water for the lake is just around the corner, and I am not confident if the authorities will take advantage of a good monsoon (as predicted by meteorological department) this year and act upon to ensure maximum rain water is collected in the lake. When the hard reality of the depleting ground water tables is staring at us, it would be criminal not to make an effort to contain the situation by harvesting the water in the lake that would in turn recharge the ground water tables.

Apathy of the authorities and elected representatives has indeed lead to the multi-fold problems of the lake. It’s high time all administrative wings and elected representatives stop passing the buck; it’s time they assess the gravity of the situation and take collective and affirmative action. Unless there is a synchronized action across authorities with responsibilities fixed, any action will be a futile exercise and a waste of tax payers money.

The apathy of the authorities and elected representatives makes me wonder if commercial pressures are acting upon to ensure that the lake is not revived and restored. It will not be far from truth to say any delay will only mean letting the lake die an unnatural death and become a hot real estate ready for sale.

- Kavitha Reddy

Published in Times of India Times - Neighbourhood Sarjapur Road - HSR Layout on 14th June 2013


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Immediate Measures - Agara Lake

Agara Lake was once a hub for many early morning walkers/joggers across HSR Layout, Venkatapura, Jakkasandra, Koramangala and Iblur etc, today it is not more than a garbage dumping yard, source of many anti-social activities and a public toilet for construction workers and laborers. Over the past few years Agara Lake has been consistently neglected leading to a very sad current state of the lake.

It is to be noted that post the landmark judgment and cancellation of PPP lease in Feb 2012, lake was handed over to Lake Development Authority (LDA), and there has been no plan-of-action or any visible lake development or maintenance works has been undertaken by the LDA.

Some immediate measures: 

Harvesting & Clearance: The meteorological department has predicted a good monsoon this year, there is a great opportunity that can be put to use to collect and conserve rain water this year. The lake surrounding has been turned into garbage dumping yard, blocking several rain water inlet points to the lake from the surrounding areas/roads. Unless there is a firm action on the clearance of blockage to the lake inlets this year will also end up as another precious opportunity wasted.

ORR and Jakkasandra road alongside the lake fence has debris and garbage that needs immediate clearance. 
The other side (Agara-Koramangala road) has weeds and unwanted plants that are damaging the fencing also have to be removed.
Blockages in the rain water inlets to the lake have to be cleared.
Clearance of floating garbage/plastic in the lake waters.
Removal of garbage inside the fenced area.
Clearance of debris/garbage in the lake main entrance.
Firm action against dumping of debris/garbage with immediate effect.

Lake Capacity: The Lake that was about 200 acres has been reduced to less than 100 areas due to constant encroachment-regularization of road works, there needs to be concrete plan and a firm action to stop this encroachment-regularization and to build the lake capacity.

The storm/ rain water catchment areas that could be a single largest source of water inflow for the lake needs a review.
Action against inlet of sewage water into the storm water drains that reaches the lake area.
De-silting, clearing the weeds, extending the lake bed could increase the lake capacity by 25%.
Implementation of treatment plant that can better the quality of water entering the lake.
Increase the number of rainwater inlets from the roads around the lake.

Security: Over the last few years the fencing around the lake is in shambles. Illegal dumping of the debris from various construction sites and garbage has destroyed the fencing in several stretches leaving it open to anti-social elements occupying the lake area to run their illegal activities.

There is an urgent need to repair the fencing around the lake and to increase the height of the fencing.
Limit the entry points to access the lake area to only two, also keep the gates locked between 8 pm and 5 am.
Appoint security personals to monitor the entry and exist of the visitors.
Ban entry to construction workers and laborers from using lake area as lavatory.
Strict ban on all illegal and anti-social activities.
Fishing activities should be licensed and monitored.
Police patrol at least once during the evening/night hours.

Beautification: The area surrounding the lake (inside the fence) has a lot of opportunity for tree plantation and to develop gardens, this work can be put into action immediately while making use of good rains that are predicted.

Benches for the visitor/walkers/joggers around the lake and in the garden area.
Flattening of the track around the lake, making to more walker/jogger friendly.
Sufficient lights during evening hours.
Introduction of more fishes into the lake.
Creating zones that can attract birds.
Dustbin around the lake.
Compost plant that can use the dry leaves to convert to manure and utilized for the garden.

-Kavitha Reddy