Sunday, October 30, 2011

Public spaces or political spaces?

The Peepal Tree chopped down at Puttenahalli Lake

PNLIT's helpless gardener flanked by tree cutters

Inconsolable gardener

Doctoring in the hope it will sprout once more

Peepal tree planting at the viewing deck 16 Sept. 2010

Mr. Bhoja Shetty and the author beside the peepal tree 17 Oct 2011

Peepal or Bo trees are large and erect with shining heart shaped trees that flutter in the slightest breeze. Seeds in bird droppings let out roots quickly and they grow everywhere, even in little nooks on walls. As its botanical name indicates, Ficus Religiosa is a sacred tree revered in our country. Reluctant to throw away their broken idols or pictures of gods, people leave these at its base. Occasionally they build a temple beside it.

We planted a Peepal tree in the viewing deck at Puttenahalli Lake for three reasons:
1) The viewing deck was made with soil removed from the lake bed during restoration. It cannot take the weight of any building leave alone a temple,
2) Being a large tree it would give ample shade, and
3) Birds would flock to it.

Last year we found a sapling growing in a confined environment but we were unable to remove enough of the roots for it to survive. The second sapling, similarly obtained, was planted on 16th September 2010 by Mr. Bhoja Shetty, 89 years old, retired Conservator of Forests and Mr. Vedanthan, 82 years, former CEO, Astra Research Centre, a Swedish firm. It caught on and we lavished attention on it. It thrived and shot to nearly 15 feet within a year. We got five benches put around it and imagined the time some four or five years later when it would have grown tall enough for birds to roost and nest; when people would sit below it and watch the birds on the branches or in the lake. Our dream crashed when Mr. Mohan Raju, BJP President of Bommanahalli got it chopped down on 29th Oct. 2011.

As trustees who have signed an MOU with the BBMP to maintain the lake, we brought it to the notice of our corporator Mr. Ramesh who got Mr. Mohan Raju to come to the lake and meet us. Mr. Raju's argument was that people would build a temple beside the tree and it would be difficult to evict them.

Our concern is whether citizen initiatives like ours can get undone so easily by political might – by a non-official person acting outside the system of government and carrying out work himself. If only he had told us, we would have arranged for the tree to be carefully removed root and all and replanted it elsewhere, perhaps in a temple premises. On our request, he has agreed to get a Red Silk Cotton sapling to plant in the same spot. We hope he will be as prompt in getting the replacement tree as he was in getting our Peepal cut down.

We also hope that he or any one else with political clout will give a little thought to what some citizens are doing for common good with no personal gain for themselves. In this case, trying to restore a once dying lake and planting trees in a city that desperately needs both.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Visitors to the Puttenahalli Lake

Date: Sun, Oct 9, 2011

Some 25 members of the Bird Watchers Field Club, Bangalore, led by ardent bird watcher, Deepa Mohan visited the Puttenahalli Lake on 8th Oct.

After spotting the juvenile coots, little grebes and pheasant tailed jacanas and seeing a coot couple building a nest, Deepa called our lake a "nursery." This was the nicest thing to hear about the lake we have been trying very hard to revive and sustain. The nesting shows that the birds feel safe to raise their young ones and the presence of large shoals of fish means that the water is clean enough for them to thrive.

One of the unusual sights we saw was a Purple Heron eating a black bird. We were so taken aback that we, including the photographers, could only gape at it and lost a rare photo opportunity!

The marshy overgrowth which most people ask when we are going to remove is ideal for the birds. The BWFC was delighted to see that our lake has enough vegetation for the waders and other birds. Other lakes in the city which were cleared of the weeds made the water clean but drove away the birds.

After the lake visit, we went to the nearby Arekere Reserve Forest. The group went into raptures at the sight of spiders, insects and butterflies which began flitting after the cloudy sky gave way to the sun. What a beautiful sight it was to see them in so many colours and sizes. And to think that I have gone through the forest very many times in the past and not seen any! The BWFC opened my eyes. Our blogs opened up our lake to everyone in the city. It was what brought Deepa and her team to Puttenahalli Lake!


Photos credit: Sushil Katre, BWFC, Bangalore

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weekend volunteers, Bird watch update

Date: Thu, Oct 6, 2011

The recent showers are helping our trees grow very well indeed but along with it, the weeds are in profusion too! Please take a little time off this weekend to do some gardening at the lake. Our gardeners will be available to guide you but basically the things you have to do are:
  • Clear the space around the base of each tree, turn the soil over but remember to keep the trough shallow around it.
  • Remove weeds growing in the walking track drains
  • Direct water flow from these drains to the nearest tree
  • Some of the bougainvillea are growing wild. Tie them with gunny ropes so that they spread over the fence. The gardeners have the rope.
  • Check that the trees have not bent or branches broken in the rains. Bent trees must be staked and broken, limp branches cut off cleanly with a knife.
  • The viewing deck needs some deweeding.
  • Our volunteers have planted Portulaca and lilies near the benches on the coconut grove. A few are flowering though most of them are still tiny and can be mistaken for weeds.
In the middle of all this, do take time off to spot any new birds! I've attached a photo of a White-breasted Waterhen which Sujesh took recently. You can hear the call of the Waterhen here.

Very many of the Thespesia along the avenue road are flowering. The Markhamia Lutea (the very tall trees along the coconut grove) are budding.

Photo credit: S. Sujesh

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bird watch update

Date: Tue, Oct 4, 2011

With winter approaching we expect many bird species to visit the lake.

A Little Egret is a frequent visitor to the lake these days. PNLIT Shutterbug Sujesh took this beautiful picture of the white coloured Little Egret and the taller Purple Heron. He has also shot a rare picture of a Little Grebe coming into breeding plumage.

See if you can spot these the next time you visit the lake!

Photos credit: S. Sujesh

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Joy of Giving Week 2011

This Joy of Giving Week (Oct 2-8, 2011), please "give" to Puttenahalli Neighbourood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT).

A citizens' initiative, the PNLIT has been working with the Bangalore municipality (BBMP), to rejuvenate and preserve Puttenahalli Lake in South Bangalore. A couple of years ago, the lake was almost lost to 'development' but it is now a "saved" lake of Bangalore that is teeming with fish and attracting birds. Indeed, the Puttenahalli Lake is an example of what we, the people can achieve with governmental support.

In May 2011, PNLIT became the first citizens' group to be given charge of maintaining a lake. BBMP does not provide any financial support for lake maintenance, so PNLIT meets the lake maintenance expenses from donations made by individuals and other well-wishers. These expenses which include buying saplings, paying salaries of the gardeners, sweeper and other labourers, maintenance equipment, etc., amounts to about Rs. 6 lakhs annually. For PNLIT, this is a labour of love. Our administrative costs are negligible.

Why is Puttenahalli Lake so important that you should support it?
- Because it raises the water table in the area and keeps the wells/ bore wells full.
- Because it prevents flooding during the monsoon.
- Because the trees are a precious green cover to keep the temperature down.
- Because birds and butterflies flock to the lake and have made it their home.
- Because children and adults can see the best of nature in the heart of human habitation.
- AND because without the lake, its entire area of 13 acres 25 guntas will most likely become a concrete jungle.

This Joy of Giving week please support PNLIT. We will make your money go a long way and ensure that the Puttenahalli Lake rejuvenation effort is sustained.

Your donations are exempt u/s 80G of the Income Tax Act.

Cheques in favour of "Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust" can be mailed to the registered office B2, 503, South City, Arekere Mico Layout, Bangalore 560076. Direct transfer to State Bank of India, RBI Layout, Bangalore SB a/c no 31209228099 (for transfer within India - ISSC code SBIN 0004408)