Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ganesha immersion at Puttenahalli Lake update

There were not too many immersions at Puttenahalli Lake this year. This may have been because the water in the lake is not very visible because the surface is covered with the invasive Salvinia fern. Another hopeful reason could be that people immersed their Ganeshas right at home!

According to our gardeners, about 10 to 12 idols went into the immersion drums that PNLIT had placed and there was one that someone had thrown just within the inner grill. One of the idols was from a travel agency in JP Nagar 9th Phase. It was good to see that most of them dissolved in the water.

Inputs and pics: Usha Rajagopalan

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ganeshas and lakes

Eco-Ganesha kai hote? (What is Eco-Ganesha?) For sixty year old Savitri, who has lived all her life in a village in Maharashtra, the only Ganeshas she knows are the ones they make with the soil from the beds (and surroundings) of lakes and ponds in her village. Her first time in the city, Savitri is astounded by the size and the variety of Ganeshas she sees in the shops and Eco-Ganesha is a word that has got fixed in her memory forever.

Like many proud Marathas, Savitri says that the Ganesha festival itself originated during her ancestor Shivaji's time, or so her grandmother told her. She is happy that the festival is celebrated so grandly in the city, but little does she know that many city dwellers are trying to emulate her and her village mates today.

In Savitri's village, preparations for the festival begin several months earlier. During the summers, the water levels in the lakes fall and the local potters collect the soil from the lake beds. Though the impact of digging soil out from lake beds is debatable, when done in moderation, it is said improve the availability and quality of water and provide a better habitat for the water life (like the fishes and frogs) when the monsoon arrives. The Ganeshas are made in the summer months itself, naturally dried and then stored to be decorated shortly before the Ganapathi festival. The potters use their own dyes made with turmeric, red mud, plant and other natural colours. At the end of the festival, the Ganeshas go back into the lake waters from which they were born, cleansing and nourishing the water with the herbal properties of the decorated idols. Water to water.


Today, we are dissuading people from going to lakes with their Ganeshas.

There are several eco-friendly alternatives that have been advertised. The government has also been asking people to go in for mud and clay Ganeshas, painted with natural colours, of small size that can be immersed at home. Despite this, it is expected that majority of the Ganeshas will not be 'eco-compliant' and their worshippers will be seeking out lakes. The material with which the Ganeshas are made, the paints used to colour them and the other accessories that are put on the Ganeshas are most likely going to be harmful to water bodies and the lives they support.

Puttenahalli Lake is not on BBMP's list of lakes designated for Ganesha idol immersion.  "Immersion of idols" is also on the list of Don'ts. But we are prepared! PNLIT has organized two different immersion points where water drums and flower collection baskets have been specially placed. A watchman and volunteers will also be on duty. Devotees who do turn up at Puttenahalli Lake will be asked to immerse their Ganeshas in the water drums at these points and save the lake!

Immersion drum
Pic: Nupur Jain

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Get ready for Season Two of "Spark The Rise"

The second season of Mahindra's Spark the Rise begins on 17th September 2012. See the Spark The Rise journey video here.

The Rise Blog said, "In order to re-ignite conversations and spread the word, we're conducting an exciting three-city tour of India."

Three 'Be the Spark' Meet-Ups were held over the last three Saturdays in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Each meet had a different topic of discussion and some of the leading social entrepreneurs, change-makers and change-agents in each city were invited to be a part of panel and general discussions on the topic. Usha Rajagopalan from PNLIT was one of the panellists at the Bangalore meet and Arathi Manay from PNLIT attended the Mumbai meet as a guest.  
With Season One (Aug 2011 - Apr 2012) having been quite a success with 
- 1,346 projects showcased on 
- 48 grants of Rs 4 lakh each and 4 grand finale prizes totally Rs 1 crore awarded, Season Two is expected to be even better. 
Improvements and refinements have been made to the listing of ideas/projects, voting and awards.      

PNLIT's Puttenahalli Lake nurturing project was one of the 48 projects that received a grant during Season One, and PNLIT went on to be one of the 18 finalists who vied for the finale prizes. 

Spark the Rise has helped PNLIT in building awareness of the importance of water bodies and public open spaces, and the instrumental role of local citizens in safeguarding their environments. Improved visibility has resulted in more volunteers, sponsorship of specific items for PNLIT and more importantly, an active "lake saving movement" in Bangalore. 

With the grant received, PNLIT has put up important signage at the lake, planted about 100 more trees and shrubs to attract more birds and insects, enriched the soil, installed rain water harvesting infrastructure for water supply, got uniforms for the staff, bought required gardening tools and equipment, cleared a large portion of the lake bund of unwanted material, developed additional waste management/ composting facilities, installed exercising infrastructure... and we have plans and some money left to do some more to nurture Puttenahalli Lake back to its pristine glory!     

If you know anyone who has a promising idea or project in progress, encourage them check out the Spark The Rise Website. It may help them become a Spark! 

"Spark the Rise is a platform whose core purpose is to drive positive change in the lives of our stakeholders and communities across the world—to enable them to Rise. Spark the Rise enables lots of people to drive positive change by bringing them together behind innovative ideas and awarding the grant money needed to put them into action. Spark a fire—start a movement."

Planting of saplings by volunteers

PNLIT had requested volunteers to help with the planting of a few indigenous saplings at the Puttenahalli lake on Saturday 15th September. The process involved digging or expanding the existing pits, planting the saplings, filling with red soil and compost and if found necessary, securing the saplings with tree guards.

Prasanna Vynatheya's report on the activity:

We had a successful day this morning at the Lake planting the saplings.

It was encouraging to see our friend Pankaj who had cycled all the way from Whitefield to give us a helping hand. There were many others including Meera, Prashanth and wife from 24th Main, Dhaval and wife Gargee all the way from Koramangala, Vani from Cassia, Vivek's friend (he's been at the lake before and helped a lot) and of course PNLIT team Vivek, Vijay, OPR, Nupur and young Vishnu who joined after completing his home work. Thank you Arathi for your Facebook announcement, we got most of them from there. 

In all we planted 18 saplings and most of them got tree guards around them. These saplings included: Mango, Shivani, Muthuga (Flame of the Forest), Banni, Red Sandal, Parijata, wild Asoka and nati/country variety of Panerle (also called Paneer fruit). Sapana got her little daughter to plant a 5 ft tall Mango sapling as a birthday gesture.

Saplings lined up for planting
Pic: Pankaj Dugar

Saplings with guards
Pic: Nupur Jain

Sapana Rawat adds:

Aditi, on whose 6th birthday we did a nature walk around the lake last year, turned 7 recently and has been wanting to plant a 'nice' tree, got her wish fulfilled this morning. She had a great time along with her younger sister Mahiti. They both want to come every Saturday to plant trees :-).

Many thanks to Vijay for letting them tag along, Pankaj for taking their pictures, and of course the Uncle with a big cap (Prasanna) and the 'older' Uncle (OPR).

Aditi planting a birthday sapling 
Pic: Pankaj Dugar

More photos taken by Pankaj Dugar can be see here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Get Eco friendly Ganesha and Save the lake

It is ironic that after praying to Ganesha, considered the Remover of Obstacles we cause such terrible damage to water bodies by immersing the toxic painted idol and killing aquatic life! Please get an eco friendly Ganesha idol and save the environment.
All lakes and tanks in Bangalore have sewage water either pouring in directly or which is residual. Are you sure you want to immerse your beloved Ganesha in such muck? Complete the sanctity of your prayer by doing it in your own house in a bucket of clean water. Here is a link for contacts of Eco-friendly idols.
Have a great Ganesh Chaturthi but don't let your devotion kill a lake and the many lives it supports!
Usha Rajagopalan
Chairperson, PNLIT

Monday, September 10, 2012

Green Lake

Expanse of algae on the water's surface

Those who visit Puttenahalli Lake these days would see almost the entire surface green with algae. 

On researching about algae, we found this information on an algae control program webpage

Algae grow when they have the right conditions such as adequate nutrients (mostly phosphorus but nitrogen is important too), light levels, pH, temperature, etc. Generally the amount of phosphorus controls the amount of algae found in a freshwater lake or water body. The more nutrient-enriched a lake, typically the more algae in the lake. 

Healthy lakes need algae. Algae are important to the productivity of a lake or water body. Algae are primary producers. They use sunlight (through photosynthesis) to produce carbohydrates and are eaten by grazers such as protozoa and zooplankton (little animals like water fleas and rotifers). The zooplankton are, in turn, grazed upon by fish, which are eaten by bigger fish, and on up the food chain. A productive lake produces large fish and good fishing for humans as well as supporting food and habitat for wildlife and waterfowl. In this context most algae are desirable for lakes.

While algae are beneficial, there are some algae that are less desirous than others, and we've been worried about the green on the lake's surface. We will need to take out samples of the algae to check the type. Experts in the field whom we got in touch with tell us that "it is some kind of seasonal algae that is blooming now. Even though there is no sewage entering the lake, there are lots of previously collected nutrients within the lake that can equally well support such seasonal blooms." They also say that using algaecide to control the growth will have short term effect while adversely affecting the natural flora and fauna of the lake ecosystem. 

The only real solution seems to be to have more clean rain water entering the lake and diluting the nutrient residue. Unfortunately, the monsoon has been very bad this year and in the few showers that we did have, only the inlet near the coconut grove let in water. Unlike last year, only excess surface water from South City reached the lake. We need to find out if L & T has blocked the storm water drainage in some way and are diverting the rain water into the underground sewage line. If this is corrected and rain water from South City let into the lake, the level will increase considerably whenever it rains.

Another hope is that the BBMP is expected to begin work on the diversion channel from Brigade Millennium arch shortly. Of course, if the rain gods continue to overwhelm other parts of the country and not Bangalore, we can do nothing but watch the algae take over the lake completely. While it is no consolation, another expert told us, "Why only your lake? All the lakes in Bangalore are green now because of less than normal monsoon!" 

Inputs and photo: Usha Rajagopalan

Update 2-Oct-2012
We've identified the "green" to be a water fern called Salvinia and not algae. We are looking for contractors/ fishermen/ any others to help in deweeding. Please contact 7259722996 if you know anyone who will undertake this job. Having a boat/ coracle should not be a constraint as it can be made available on site.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Volunteers plant vetiver

Vetiver is a perennial grass (Binomial name Chrysopogon zizanioides, commonly called Khus) that has a very strong root system which grows deep and binds the soil wonderfully, preventing soil erosion. The island at Puttenahalli Lake already has some mature clumps of vetiver that were planted way back in 2010.

Vetiver clumps on the island (May 2011)

With the rains finally making an appearance, we've stepped up our gardening effort. 
This morning there were many gardening volunteers at the lake, from different complexes around the lake and even Jeanne all the way from Richmond Town and Pankaj from Whitefield. 
The volunteers planted vetiver along the one of the boundary fences (near Nataraja Layout).
The work planned for the weekend was all completed in one day! 

Volunteers at work

Planted vetiver

About a month ago, volunteers had helped in moving weeds from the lake bed/ bund/ surroundings and piled them for composting. This is now transformed into lovely rich manure, which we will use for the plants at the lake.

Rich manure

Heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers. We look forward to your continued support. 

Pics: Usha Rajagopalan, Harish Mahendrakar