Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hebbal Lake: From Picturesque to Eyesore

Published in Star of Mysore on 27th March 2013 : 

The swaying trees around the lake on a pleasant summer evening. The cool breeze lovingly slapping both your cheeks.  High pitched calls by migratory birds perched on tree tops. If you are lucky, you might spot the female guarding her nest.  Her human counterpart sitting on the lush green grass nearby gazing at the nature’s bounty.One little boat tied to a tree.Couples waiting for their turn at the boat station. The children playing in the vicinity... Hello, come back from your dream world. With most of the lakes in Mysore left at the mercy of poor governance and unmindful industrialization, the birds chirping and water swaying find mention only in the poetry.
If you are asked to name the lakes in Mysore then in all likelihood most of us will say ...Kukkarahalli (known more for controversies than its serene water body) and Karanji. The survival of the only two lakes has nothing to do with the K factor. Did you know that there are 30 lakes in Mysore? And if all these lakes were allowed to bloom to its natural glory, then Mysore could have been a close contender to Udaipur for the city of lakes tag.  It is different that unlike Udaipur most of the lakes in Mysore are man made  but it is more traumatic to watch the man made lakes literally go down the drain than the natural ones as along with the lake, the substantial amount of money spent on constructing the lake also does a vanishing act.  Hebbal Lake is one such lake which is on the verge of dying a man made death. Most of the people do not even know the location of Hebbal Lake; it is shown outside Mysore even in the map of Mysore district. About one and a half century ago, Mysore witnessed development of many lakes. Hebbalkere was one such water body which was constructed to irrigate the green and flat land for cultivation.  It is a perennial lake with the objective to retain water the entire year. Spread over 30.3 acres in the heart of Hebbal area in north Mysore, the lake is fantastically engineered. There are high bunds (647 metres to be precise) and if you happen to take a walk on the not so narrow pathway, you cover a distance of 2 km.
About a decade ago, JNRUM carried out a study on the lakes of Mysore and emphasized on the restoration of lakes, but only two lakes K and K were restored. A few years later, during the tenure of Chief Minister Yeddyurappa ,  5 Crore were granted to each consistency for restoration of lakes. Eleven lakes were identified for restoration, but only six could be tackled. Those six are – Hebbal Lake, Bommanahalli lake,Bogadhilake,Hinkallake,Dalvoy lake[partial] and Kukkarahalli. The lakes that missed the bus due to official lethargy and ineptness are Lingamudhi Lake, Malalavadilake,Devnoorlake,Kyathamaranahalli lake, and  Hinkalrayanakere.
In the past, the Hebbal Lake witnessed people’s protest against development of industries by KIADB in the vicinity of the lake. Earlier both raw sewage and industrial waste used to pollute the lake. Industrial effluents, junk, waste - the lake became a dumping yard for all kind of industrial and human waste. The direct flow of raw sewage now stands diverted downstream, and only sporadic flows of sewage from blocked UGD makes its way through the storm water drains of Hebbal. Flow of industrial waste water into the lake continues unabated causing concern about the ecosystem health and quality of ground water.  “Unfortunately the money was there for the restoration of the lake, but the opportunity was lost in bureaucratic hurdles and lack of commitment for this cause. Today it is no one’s baby,” tells U.N.Ravi Kumar who has been involved in the restoration of lakes in Mysore.  Ravi is a professor by profession and environmentalist by passion.
Tragically and interestingly the lake is only a few notches away from its complete revival. If you visit the lake, you will see that most of the work has already been done.  Today with secured fencing in place, the lake is free from encroachments. High bunds were also erected later. De silting, widening of bunds and pitching is complete. The construction of Walkway wide enough for a sedan to pass was started with great fanfare, but it is still not complete.
“If the public is aware of its rights, anything is possible. The examples are in front of us. But for public outcry, the scenic view of the water body at the Kukkarahalli Lake would have been blocked by the barbaric fence. The stakeholders which comprises of industries and public mainly people living in the vicinity of the lake should join hands together to restore the lake to its past glory,” says Ravi Kumar.
A few likeminded Mysoreans who consider lung space as their right has been frequenting the lake on Sundays lately. The group is going to present a petition to the deputy commissioner seeking development and maintenance of the lake for the benefit of general public. If on a Sunday morning, you happen to pass by, you will find a bunch of enthusiastic men, women and children cleaning up the garbage around the lake with their bare hands. Join them. Save the lake, it is your right. With World Water Day just come and gone on 22nd March, it is never too late to begin..

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