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