Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Citizen’s Clean-up Drive of Agara Lake

Encroachments, Real Estate Lobby, Abuse of Nature, Apathy of elected Representative and non-responsive Authorities have lead to the vanishing of Lakes in Bangalore. The city that boosted of it gardens, park and lakes is now at the mercy real estate lobbies whose greed and disrespect to nature had turned the city into a concrete jungle.

The citizens of HSR Layout on 7th July gathered to create awareness and draw the attention of the authorities towards Agara Lake. 15 gardeners appointed by the citizens have been working for the last 2 days clearing weeds and floating plastic in the lake, about 400 people from all walks of life - young & old, men & women joined hands to clear the non-biodegradable garbage on walking tracks and floating plastic in the lake.

Sowjanya & Jenitha spoke about how the lake was once a prime attraction for the residents of Mantri Sarovar few years ago, and today they are scared even to go for a walk along with their children in the evening as anti-social elements have occupied the lake. They also mentioned about the importance of children knowing their environment, respecting it, be prepared to protect and save the nature.

Jay Krishanan who is one of the organizer of the event said ‘It is a 1st step and we hope to create awareness and build momentum in the days to come, we have received good support so far from the LDA and will work with them to make it more and more effective and we want the BBMP to ensure the rain water reaches the lake’. Sudhakar another resident commented that ‘Lake was a place which many avoided due to the goons and illegal activities that take place in the lake’. 

Suresh Shetty part of the organizing team went to many apartments to invite them to participate in the walkathon, he says ‘one good thing about Agara Lake is that encroachments are not a possibility as the lake is surrounded by roads, at least that ensures the lake size will not reduce any further’.

The citizens have been meeting the government authorities consistently and had also invited Mr Kaushik Mukherjee Additional Chief Secretary Govt of Karnataka, Dr Ravi Ralph CEO Lake Development Authority and Dr Yellappa Reddy Redt IFS Officer, well know Environmentalist also to come and motive the citizens. Both Mr Mukherjee and Dr Ralph walked with the citizens re-assuring their commitment to rejuvenate Agara Lake.

Dr Yellappa Reddy minced no words in stating that both the citizens and government are responsible for the present condition of Environment. He said encroachments have become a norm and the political representatives are hand-in glove with the real estate barons and builders. Sounding emotional he also said ‘We have no respect to the Nature and we have even ignored the 51A(g) of the constitution, where it is the fundamental duty of the citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures’. He gave the examples of how several lakes in Karnataka were build/restored/saved by individual who contributed their life savings. He also mentioned ‘today Bangalore is short of drinking water and if we continue to abuse and exploit the nature we will only see the worst’. Dr Yellappa Reddy was categorical that AT Ramaswamy report has to be taken up by the government strongly and there should be special courts to address encroachments of lakes and other ecological spots.

Munivenkatappa Retd ACP who is a regular jogger at the Agara Lake and also the President of the proposed citizen committee was quick to point out that ‘it’s important for all citizens to join hands, and no one person can make a change all by themselves, it will take 6-8 months of consistent effort to make the lake more visible and to bring back citizens to enjoy the nature, once the lake has more water more birds will start visiting the lake’.

It is noticed that even with good early monsoon the lake still has very less water; the blockages in SWD across the locality/ies have disrupted the flow of water into the lake. Almost all the SWD have huge amount of garbage pile up and has not been de-silted for many years. BBMP has not taken any concrete action on the garbage dumping in the Raj Kaluve or cleared the blockages. No amount of complains has woken up the BBMP from the slumber, they find excuses not to act upon each time a water logging or over flow of SWD is reported.

Mr Kaushik Mukherjee immediately called the relevant departments, soon a JCB and truck came to clear and carry back the debris and 70 odd bags of garbage that was collected by the citizens during the walkathon. The citizens bravely wore the gloves and picked the garbage from the lake and cleared most of the floating garbage.

The citizens had made personal contributions for the clean-up drive, with no support from any elected representative, it was also noticed that the local corporator who was invited by the citizens was absent, clearly showing lack of interest and disregard for the citizen initiative.

The citizens met the objectives of initiating a clean-up drive, creating awareness and bringing in participation. Hope today’s citizen drive will at least motivate the elected representatives of the locality to contribute their time and attention and not just look for photo opportunity.

- Kavitha Reddy

Also appeared in Citizen Matters