City of forsaken lakes
This is the tenth of a 16-part series on Bangalore, which will culminate in several competitions, including a Quiz, Paint Your City, Photography Your City, Treasure Hunt and so on for The Hindu NIE participants.
The once-pristine Ulsoor Lake is nothing short of a cesspool now. Photo: K. Gopinathan
WHILE UDAIPUR is known as the city of beautiful lakes, Bangalore can be called as the city of forsaken lakes. Urbanisation over a hundred years has dried up many lakes built by Kempe Gowda. The Siddikatte Lake has now become the bustling City Market, Sampangi tank now houses the Kanteerava Sports Stadium, Dharmambudhi is now the busy Kempe Gowda Bus Stand, the Karanji tank is the Gandhi Bazar area, Kempambudhi is now a sewerage collection tank, Chennamma tank a burial ground, Akkithimmanahalli tank is the Corporation Hockey Stadium, Jakkarayanakere is also converted into a sports ground, and the Miller Tank area houses the Guru Nanak Bhavan, schools, and several buildings.
Bangalore once had 141 lakes of which seven cannot be traced, seven are recognisable as small pools of water, 18 have been unauthorisedly occupied by slums and private parties, 14 have dried up and are leased out by the Government. In the area where there were once 28 lakes (in different locations, of course), the Bangalore Development Authority has distributed sites and built extensions. The remaining 67 lakes are in fairly advanced state of deterioration.
The tragedy, which has befallen many of our lakes, is a sad commentary on rapid urbanisation and man's greed. The degradation is brought about by the dumping of waste construction material and garbage all around the lakes, leading sewage or factory effluent into the lakes, choking of the water catchment area by unplanned development, damaging the lake bunds by the erratic digging of earth to carry away the fertile soil, allowing the cattle to graze on the embankments and allowing the lakes to become mosquito breeding centres besides lush growth of water hyacinth...
The tragedy is avoided only if the importance of such water bodies is realised. The Government woke up to face the problem in 1985 and set up an expert committee headed by N. Lakshmana Rau to suggest ways to preserve and restore the pristine glory of the near extinct lakes of Bangalore.
The committee recommended many steps and also suggested that the Forest Department, BDA, City Corporation, and BWSSB be given an active role in restoring the lakes. The happy result of their efforts may be seen in the restoration of the Ulsoor Lake and the Yediyur Tank.
Modern ideas of rainwater harvesting in buildings and parks, applied to residential extensions, may also help a great deal in improving the fresh water inflow into the dried up tanks and natural reservoirs. But, the City can justly be proud of being called the Garden City. Two of the City's oldest, biggest, and well-maintained parks - Lalbagh and Cubbon - have earned it this reputation.
In his travel account of 1800, Francis Buchanan refers to the greenery of Bangalore owing to its vegetable farms, coconut gardens, beetle leaf farms, and flower gardens. Today most of these gardens have given way to residential localities which have retained the old names such as Chikkanna Gardens, Tulasi Thota, Wilson Gardens, Yellappa Gardens, Sankamma Thota, Rudrappa Garden, Mavina Thota (Banashankari), Pillanna Gardens, Thengina Thotada Raste (Coconut Garden Road), Margosa Road, and Sampige Road.
However, the greenery is still retained in about 200 odd parks, avenues, gardens, in circles and squares, and sprawling flower/tree gardens in the bungalows.
Lalbagh is spread over 240 acres and Cubbon Park over 300 acres. The other parks together occupy about 300 acres. Some of the other parks are Bommanahalli Farm (40 acres), Lakshmana Rau Boulevard (20 acres), Vijayanagar Boulevard (20 acres), Vidhana Soudha Park (18 acres), Sir M.N. Krishna Rao Park (22 acres), Nehru Boulevard (16 acres), Gayathridevi Park (13 acres), Coles Park (12 acres), and Chandrashekar Boulevard (10 acres).
Lalbagh was established by Hyder Ali in 1760 on a 40-acre land. The idea was inspired by a Moghul garden in Sira. Hyder and his son, Tippu, developed this garden by obtaining a variety of plants and trees (rose, fig, apple, apricot, grapes, raspberry, oak, pine, mango, orange, avacado, etc.) from places such as Delhi, Lahore, Multan, Mauritius, England, and South Africa. Lalbagh grew under the care of many British and Indian officers working under the Royal Botanical Gardens, Calcutta (1819-1831), the Commissioners (1831-36 and 1842-56), Agri Horticultural Society of India (1836-42), Government Botanical Gardens (1856-81), and then under the Mysore State Government.
Today, Lalbagh gardens, spread over 240 acres, are famous for a variety of reason such as botanical garden with an extensive collection of plants of different climates and countries, the lake, the acquarium, the geological monument, and the three mango trees planted by Tippu.
The Glass House, known as the Jewel of Lalabgh, was constructed in 1890 on the model of Crystal Palace in London. The half yearly flower shows in the Glass House attract thousands of flower lovers.
The Cubbon Park, started in 1864 during Sir Mark Cubbon's period as Commissioner, was completed during the regime of the Commissioner Col Meade (1870-75) and was for sometime known as Meade's Park. Apart from the greenery, the park houses the statues of Queen Victoria, Sir Mark Cubbon, Sir K. Seshadri Iyer, King Edward VII, and Chamaraja Wadiyar. There is also a fountain built by Sir Mirza Ismail from the deposit of Rs. 6,000 made by the queen of Bajang, Nepal, for the maintenance of her pet parrot.
The Venkatappa Art Gallery, the Bal Bhavan, Tennis Courts, and the Acquarium add variety to the green splendour of the park. Orchestra music in band stands of various parks provided for popular entertainment.
The Thimmesha Prabhu Park near Hariharagudda, Jayanagar V Block Park, T.R. Shamanna Park on Bugle Rock, and Sadashivanagar, and Banashankari gardens are of more recent origin and are quite popular. Sir M.N. Krishna Rao Park, once started for the exclusive benefit of the children and women, is now one of the many neglected parks.
The corporation, public and private institutions, and people have a big responsibility in seeing to it that the Garden City of Bangalore does not deteriorate into Garbage City.
(The author would be grateful for additional information, old anecdotes, and old photographs on the subject. He can be contacted on 6520122 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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