Date:30/06/2011 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2011/06/30/stories/2011063050850300.htm
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A lake revived

The Purple Heron visits the restored Puttenahalli lake



RED-HANDED The Purple Heron

“A purple Heron is lurking around the island and a whole flock of Whistling Ducks visited our lake,” reveals Arathi Manay excitedly. Success at bringing back life to a ‘dead' lake in Bangalore should be a happy omen for us living in a city, which seems to be losing its original ethos of a garden city. Thankfully we many have local crusaders without whom Bangalore would have disintegrated into a pile of garbage and dust. Arathi Manay is one such resilient crusader, who is the managing trustee of the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT) along with Usha Rajagopalan, Prasanna Vymathya and O.P. Ramaswamy. The Puttenahalli Lake lies between the Brigade Millenium and South City apartment blocks in JP Nagar.

“When we came to live here the lake had been dried out with debris and encroached by slum dwellers,” reveals Arathi, “ It would have become a road and so a group of us got together to put the lake onto the government list of lakes to be rejuvenated in Bangalore. However nothing works unless there is a registered body, so we formed the Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT) in June 2010 after which the BBMP began to interact with us. The lake area was cleaned up and excavators were used to clear the debris and go down to the original lake bed.”

Arathi believes that unless there is a strong partnership between the government and local residents, nothing can really work, so they are requested by the BBMP to go across and check on the quality of work and the materials being used by the contractors entrusted with the work.

In January 2010, the restoration of the lake began with the lake body being excavated and the soil being humped up around the lake as a bund, which is also used as a walking path. The only tree that was left in the area according to Arathi was a single date palm. All the other trees had been cut down and the area was barren.

“So before the monsoons came we planted our first round of 150 saplings which were given to us by the BBMP. Prasanna, an avid bird watcher researched as to which trees would bring back the bird population along with Subramanya from the UAS and Bhoodha Shetty from the Forest Department and a list was drawn up, and accordingly saplings were brought. The first tree planting was done on July 17 last year and we put down Cannon balls, Arjuna, Kadamba and Sampige trees. On the viewing deck we put only a single Peepul tree, which is growing well. We also planted shorter varieties of trees under the electric poles.”

It is a hard job to keep the slum dwellers from fishing in the lake and killing the birds that have begun to flock again, reveals Arathi. Residents of the surrounding buildings come for walks now around the lake, and along with a mali and a sweeper, who are employed with donations from the residents of the area, Arathi keeps the gardens growing well and clean of garbage and leaves.

“The Thespia has flowered with the rains and most of the trees are growing well and are healthy,” says Arathi. The Purple Heron has arrived and feeds on fish and frogs, which probably have returned to the lake now that the rains have brought in a little water into its bed.

Check out https://sites.google.com/site/puttenahallilakeonline to see the work the trust is doing.

MARIANNE DE NAZARETH

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