Friday, February 12, 2021

“Once there was a tank called Puttenahalli Puttakere….”

As many may have noticed, BBMP has been cleaning our little Puttenahalli Lake in J.P. Nagar 7th Phase, for nearly a month now. After ‘dewatering’ the lake, they began to remove the contaminated soil, from the surface in some places and further below at others.  A fortnight ago, these pits filled with black water and at other places, damp patches formed where weeds began to grow. The underground water was getting exposed by the digging we thought, but the patches became pools which grew in number and size. 

 

A LEAKING PIPE:



On 3rd February, our gardeners reported that water was entering the wetland through one of the inlet pipes which discharged surface runoff from South City. We contacted the apartment complex immediately. They checked and rechecked. This inflow wasn’t from South City.
 

Was this leakage from the newly installed UNDERGROUND DRAIN (UGD) that BWSSB had laid last year? 


The ward office sent a contractor to locate the source and plug it. By then, there was some seepage from below the inlet pipes as well. He suggested that we block the pipe with sandbags. The back flow would indicate possible source which could  be repaired. We did as he asked.

 

The sandbags remained in place and dry though the seepage from below the pipes increased as did the water level in the lake! In just four days, i.e., by Sunday 7th Feb., many of the pools had not only grown but, they and the trenches dug by the excavators had vile, floating mass which was visible from a distance. We knew only too well just what it was - sewage. Once again. 

 


THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME


In 2017, an occasional trickle of sewage from the UGD at Nataraja Layout began to enter the lake through the storm water drain. Each time, the BWSSB Ward Office removed the blockage with a jetting machine. When it became a regular feature, we escalated the issue to the Head Office, but no action was taken. The polluted water led to a massive fish kill in March 2018.



We desperately tried to alleviate the damage by installing an aerator fountain in April 2019. However, infuriated with the sewage overflowing on the road, the residents of the layout opened up the drain and led it directly into the lake on 3rd June 2019. Sewage started to gush inside. 

 


LAYING OF THE (NOW LEAKING) UGD:


In deep anguish, we were on the verge of giving up altogether when we appealed to Sri Jayaram, then Chairman, KSPCB and later at a meeting of the NGT Green Tribunal Committee chaired by Hon'ble Justice Sri Santosh Hedge. Sri Tushar Girinath, then Chairman of BWSSB who was present at this meeting agreed to get the existing UGD replaced with a bigger one but warned that the slum could be an obstruction.  Nevertheless, he kept his word and work began in August 2019.

 

Working between the sewage filled lake on the one side and the illegal houses on the other, progress was very slow. All the while, the slum dwellers kept a keen watch and, nervous for their safety, even picked up fights with the workers.

 

 

At the stretch where a few houses came in the way, BWSSB compromised by laying that section of the pipe on the REVETMENT on the water side. This exposed pipe developed cracks and the contractor’s patchwork repair gave way at least twice in January 2021. 

 


Now, not only was this section leaking yet again but along with it, the entire length of revetment along the new drain was damp and foul water was collecting to form pools. 

 

 


BWSSB responded at once to the alert and worked till the early hours on 11th Feb, to clear the blockage. They are still at it today. While we appreciate their prompt response, jetting or temporary measures will not do. They need to come up with a permanent solution if the lake is to be saved. 

 

COULD ALL THIS HAVE BEEN AVOIDED?


Yes. If only the government had acted on the Order of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka, passed on 7th March 2019 in W.P. Nos. 5073 – 5187 / 2015 (GM –RES).  These Writ Petitions filed by the slum dwellers were disposed of with a direction to (1) Principal Secretary (Revenue), (2) Deputy Commissioner and (3) Slum Board to take a decision on the slum dwellers’ representations (to the Deputy Commissioner on 23.09.2014) where they asked for allotment of individual plots instead of the temporary sheds already built for them by the Slum Board (and which they demolished in July 2018).

 

The Court gave twelve weeks’ time to the Respondents. On the 7th of March, next month, it would be two years since the High Court passed the order. The authorities concerned are yet to take any decision.

 

Time and again, we reminded them of the High Court order and the urgency for early action, given the sewage inflow. Frustrated at the Respondents passing the buck from one to another, we met the Additional Chief Secretary (Urban Dev.), the Chief Secretary (twice) and emailed the Chief Minister of Karnataka. In Jan 2020, we filed a case with the LOKAYUKTA to take action against the errant officials for dereliction of duty.  The next hearing is on 3rd March but, going by our past experience, we are fairly certain that the matter will get postponed further.  

 

HOW LONG CAN A BUND THAT IS ALREADY WEAK, HOLD UP, BEFORE ENDANGERING THE SLUM DWELLERS?


Way back in Sept 2017, we had alerted  BBMP and all the Respondents about the poor condition of the bund on the slum side. The inner grill had tilted in places and sections of it had fallen down.This happened because these residents had levelled the slope at many places to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers. In the process, they dislodged the boulders that were embedded on the bottom half of the revetment. On 28th May 2020, one of the houses on the bund collapsed and was quickly rebuilt. Since then, the bund has grown considerably weaker. The inner grill is almost nonexistent.


 

BBMP planned to strengthen the bund once the lake basin is cleared of the sewage sediment. With the UGD still leaking, and likely to do so in the future, what will they do now?

   

THE OUTCOME?


Our Puttenahalli Lake which looked this on 19/04/2019



Looks like this today, 12/02/2021



From 2010, working closely with the BBMP, residents from the neighbourhood and CSR partners, we toiled to bring a dry lake back to life. We overcame several obstacles on the way but 11 years later, the biggest two still remain – encroachment and sewage.


We have no words to describe our feelings at this point. If this situation continues we, and you, will soon have to say, “Once there was a tank called Puttenahalli Puttakere….”



PNLIT Trustees

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Thwarted yet again

Just about a week ago, we had ended our annual report on a cheerful note that the BBMP had begun cleaning the lake bed. Putting to work  a soil excavator and a JCB, the contractor was making excellent progress. 


5th Jan 2021


6th Jan 2021

Everything was undone by the rain which began yesterday afternoon and lasted into the night. We anticipated the worst and, as the photographs show, were proved right. 




After the rains

Today was bright and sunny. We will now wait for more such days with not a dark cloud in the sky till BBMP completes their work once and for all. Please strengthen our hope with your good wishes!
Best regards

PNLIT team

Photos taken by Ramu, Geetha Srikrishnan and Megha Malviya


Thursday, December 31, 2020

As we leave the year behind

If ever there was a year that the world would like to forget, it would be 2020, truly an annus horribilis. This was also the year that taught us to be grateful to all those who have been risking their own lives so that the rest of us may remain safe and protected in the pandemic. Our deepest gratitude to every single one of these unsung stars.


Match stick plant (Aechmea gamosephala)

At such a time it doesn't seem quite right to share a progress card for the year, as it were, of our lake. And yet, we hope this mail will bring a little bit of cheer to you. 

PNLIT crossed a threshold in June 2020 by completing 10 years of dedicated care of our Puttenahalli Lake. It is this commitment that made us go all out to stop sewage from killing the lake.

The sewage inflow which began as an occasional trickle, became a regular gush from March 2018. It was finally plugged by BWSSB on 29 July 2020. BBMP had been waiting in the wings to begin damage control. However, every time they began, they were thwarted by the rain. Such a prolonged monsoon did we have this year! It may be a cliche but there is truth in the saying 'Man proposes and God disposes.' When it finally stopped raining, BBMP began work in mid-December and are likely to take a good three months to finish. This makeover will give the lake, and us, a fresh start. 

We ask for no miracles in 2021 but pray for good health, cheer and happier times for all.

Greetings for the new year. 
PNLIT Team 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Lake Update

It's been a while since we posted an update on the lake. So here goes. As you are aware, BWSSB arrested the inflow of sewage into the lake from 29th July. Since then BBMP has been attempting to strengthen the bund and clear the lake bed of the weeds. However, they are thwarted by the incessant rain. They, and we, are waiting for sunny days. At the same time, there's no denying that the plants are soaking in the rain and growing so lush! 

The lake is open to visitors between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on all days except Sundays. Here are a few photographs taken by Ms. Raji Hari this morning. 







Birders like her update their list on the ebird site which shows 111 species. Most of them have been sighted after the lake was rejuvenated in 2010. We hope that with the BBMP giving a second lease of life to the lake, we will see even more species and numbers of birds in our lake. 

 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Celebrate International Literacy Day with PNLIT, Snehadhara Foundation and Pratham Books

Our annual storytelling event goes online!

We are delighted to celebrate International Literacy Day with Snehadhara Foundation and Pratham Books by hosting an online interactive session for children aged between 3 and 10 years. 

Pratham Books' stories this year are Angry Akku written and illustrated by Vinayak Varma for younger kids, and The Girl Who Could Not Stop Laughing, written by Meera Ganapathi and illustrated by Rosh for older kids. 

Entry is free but registration is a must!  So do register here - https://forms.gle/SJZRvFnwwoGwaddA8   



The registered email ids will get Zoom meeting ID closer to the date. For any queries, contact pnlit.events@gmail.com .

Warmly,
Sapana
PNLIT Events Coordinator

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Independence Day greetings and more

Warm greetings to all on our Independence Day. This year, we are constrained to celebrate this joyous day within the confines of our homes. Wherever we may be, let us pray that together we overcome the current pandemic and emerge stronger, with greater unity and good will to all. May we respect and protect not only our beloved nation but also our forests, lakes and precious natural resources.
On this occasion, we are happy to tell you that the lake has become free too - from sewage! Since the 29th of July, sewage has not been entering the lake! 

Exactly a year ago, in early August 2019, BWSSB had unloaded pipes to replace the existing drain. However, they were impeded by resistance from the encroachers, COVID lockdown and the monsoon setting in. Nevertheless, both BBMP (Lakes) and we, have  been constantly urging BWSSB to keep working and, on 28th July, their contractor worked for a straight 24 hours or so to complete the pipeline. He, in fact, telephoned us at 5.30 a.m. to say that the sewage inflow had stopped. 

Silt trap, dry at last, 12th Aug 2020

Sewage entering the lake, 22nd Jun 2019 

BBMP, getting the silt trap cleaned

Sewage from the wetland, overflowing into the main lake, 18th Jul 2019 

We take this opportunity to thank BWSSB and BBMP for saving our lake from sure death by pollution! Our heartfelt thanks to all of you, our dear well-wishers, for standing by us in those difficult times which began in March 2018. 

BBMP has begun their work of bringing the lake back to life. To do this, they need to clean the lake bed, repair the bund and do a number of related work. We hope their progress will be fast and smooth. 

On another note - Ever since the COVID, footfall at the lake has reduced. This, perhaps, has encouraged birds to build nests within reach. We've asked our gardeners to ensure that no visitor to the lake disturbs these eggs or the fledglings. 

Be safe, stay indoors.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Big white flowers

Thank you to everyone for their kind words and greetings on the 10th anniversary of PNLIT. Our apologies for not acknowledging your encouragement and affection earlier. The reason for this delay in responding was a flower. Yes. A Big White Showy Flower. 

When we went to the lake on the 11th, the first thing that caught our eyes was a profusion of these big white flowers which hung from the chain link fence behind the gazebo. At first glance they looked like Brahma Kamal which blooms at night and droops during the day. That too, apparently once a year. 

Was nature giving us a gift? Though thrilled, we sent the photos to five experts.  All of them  confirmed that it is not the Brahma Kamal. Two felt it was likely to be Dragonfruit. This sent us into another tizzy. Our gardeners insisted that they had only seen the flowers, never any fruit. Today morning, our mentor said that it is not easy to guess what's preventing pollination and suggested that we try hand pollination since these are big flowers. We have no clue how to go about this just as we have no idea how the plant came up at the lake in the first place. 





Pictures taken by Sapana (our coordinator) and Ramu (our gardener)

A year or two ago, we had noticed the cactus-like stem growing on the bamboo behind the gazebo but, caught in other work, hadn't quite paid attention to it. Now they burst into flower and how! The Brahma Kamal flowers are said to bring prosperity and good fortune. We hope the flowers of the Dragonfruit will do likewise as we enter our 11th year!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

PNLIT is 10 years old!

It's with great satisfaction, tinged with disbelief, that we cross a major milestone today. PNLIT was registered on this day ten years ago! Our  plans to celebrate this occasion came to naught due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we are happy to share with you a short video which showcases our journey with Puttenahalli Lake. An endeavour of ten years told in three minutes. 



The video has been made by Nupur and Pranshu Jain with inputs from Usha and all the photographers whose images have been used. 

A Big, Big Thanks from all of us at PNLIT. With you beside, we will complete another ten years!

Go Green and keep the planet safe for all its denizens.  
Be safe, stay indoors.   

Friday, June 5, 2020

Happy World Environment Day!

On the occasion of World Environment Day, let's take an oath to keep the world a better, greener, richer place - today and everyday!
Happy to share a newsletter for children brought out by Atree. Please click here to view/download. 
Do get your children to go through this issue. 
Thanks to Priya Ranganathan for bringing this to our notice. 




Saturday, May 30, 2020

Why do we even bother about Puttenahalli Lake?

It is with deep anguish that we are sharing the news of a house in the slum on our lake bund collapsing in the rain on the night of 28th May. Fortunately there was no loss of life or injury to anyone. 


House collapse, 28th March 2020
The Hindu, 30th March 2020
After seeing how extensively the slum dwellers had damaged the revetment by leveling the slope for their kitchen gardens and planting by the edge of the water, we had alerted the concerned authorities in Sept. 2017. The boulders had become dislodged, the walking track was uneven and sections of the inner grill had fallen down.  

We are particularly upset because this would not have happened if only the slum dwellers had shifted to the temporary sheds that the Karnataka Slum Development Board (KSDB) had built for them in 2014 at Bettadasanapura. By now, they would have been staying in 1bhk flats.

Rejecting the temporary accommodation as too small, they had filed a writ petition in February 2015 in the High Court asking for 20 feet x 30 feet sheds or individual plots of land. However, this didn't stop them from taking possession of the sheds on 24.02.2017 even though they continued to stay at the lake premises. When the matter was in the court, they razed 114 out of 118 sheds to the ground in July 2018. KSDB filed an FIR at the Bettadasanapura police and left it at that. We learnt about this after reading a report in the newspaper.

Deccan Herald, Sep 2018
The High Court disposed of the writ petition on 07.03.2019 with a directive to Respondent 1 - Principal Secretary (Revenue), Respondent 2 - Deputy Commissioner (Urban) and Respondent 3 - Karnataka Slum Development Board that they "shall take a decision on the representations of the petitioners in accordance with law in an expedite manner in any event, not later than twelve weeks from the date of receipt of the certified copy of the order. The petitioners shall not be evicted from the property in question till the decision is taken by respondent Nos.1 to 3.”   

We personally handed over the certified copy of the judgement to each of the respondents and reminded them every so often about this order. The 12 weeks stretched to 14 months, the Respondents have still not acted on the judgment. Emboldened perhaps by this, by the fact that the Slum Board did not pursue the FIR at the Bettadasanapura police station, and by the direction in the judgement, the slum dwellers refused to cooperate with BWSSB and BBMP to complete the underground drain and divert raw sewage entering the lake. 

With some six or seven houses built right next to the pathway above the drain, BWSSB was constrained to lay a new line a few feet above the water (photo attached). 

On 11th June 2020, PNLIT will complete 10 years as custodians of Puttenahalli Puttakere. What have we achieved in these many years? 

  • We are the first citizens' group to sign an MoU with the BBMP and become official custodians of a lake in Bengaluru. 
  • We have encouraged others, individuals and RWAs, to become lake warriors. 
  • With permission from KSPCB filled the lake with treated water from an apartment complex.
  • Introduced a low cost water purification model with our Artificial Floating Islands that have since been introduced in some other lakes. 
  • Installed an aerator fountain in April 2019.
  • The once dry periphery of the lake now has rich green cover with  trees, shrubs and climbers.
  • Since 2010, the  lake has attracted over 100 birds (ebird link), insects, reptiles and more. 
  • Butterflies are swarming at the lake even as we write this.  

Aerial view, January 2020
Yet, when we look back we see the misery of a collapsed house, sewage killing the lake and weeds growing rampantly. 

Aerial view, May 2020

What we feel is the burden of challenges that seem insurmountable even after striving so hard to resolve them. And now, the deep worry that no more houses should collapse in the days to come.  

Ten years later, we are left with these questions:

If the government is not interested in protecting lakes, why do we worry about Puttenahalli Lake?

If they will not follow a High Court judgement, why will they listen to us, ordinary folks trying to save a lake in the neighbourhood? 

Why, indeed, should we bother about Puttenahalli Lake?