Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hope and Colours at Puttenahalli Lake

In this season of colours, our lake bed may seem drab, devoid of water but for us at PNLIT, it is a sign of hope. The brown piles of drying Salvinia is the final leg of a battle we've been fighting since Aug. last year to remove the invasive fern Salvinia Molesta and to infuse new life into the lake. The way the BBMP's JCB and the men are working, we are hopeful that the last of the Salvinia will be removed by the end of the week. THEN we can welcome the rain to fill up the lake.

In spite of our preoccupation with the lake bed, we did not miss the riot of colours on the embankment. Some of the trees we'd planted in July 2010 have begun flowering and how lovely they look! A selection of photos of trees that began flowering this year are attached. A few like the tall Markhamia Lutea have been showering yellow flowers on the walking track for a year or more. The Bougainvillea has been a blaze of scorching pink and violet while preventing miscreants from cutting through the fence.

We are now setting up a small garden within an enclosure behind the Gazebo. Very soon there'll be a burst of colours here as well since most of these are flowering plants such as Hibiscus, Canna (both in two colours), Nerium, Euphorbia and others.

This is our floral thank you to our donors! We are using your donations not only for the trees or to set up the garden but also to effect many other changes at our lake. Please keep donating to PNLIT and avail of IT exemption under 80G.

 Golden Laburnum

Crepe Flower

African Tulip

 Tabebuia Argentea

Crepe Flower (in the foreground), Bougainvillea (in the background)

Garden enclosure

Garden plants awaiting planting

Text and pics: Usha Rajagopalan

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Winning the Namma Bengaluru Award

In its fourth edition, with a record 61,000 nominations for nine categories in the prestigious Namma Bengaluru Award, 2012 (NBA) which recognizes the "unsung heroes; ordinary people who do extraordinary things so that the city can move forth in to the future" the odds of winning were stacked against everybody.

We had been shortlisted last year and the excitement continued this year as well. However, with a great deal of work yet to be done to make the lake ready for the monsoon, we tried not to think too much about the NBA. Our lake was in no condition to receive visitors but the organizers sent someone over to do a due diligence of PNLIT's work. Before we could meet him, he had already quizzed the two groups of men who were working at the lake. One group was digging a trench for the diversion channel to harvest rain water from the road and another was enabling a system by which we could draw water from the lake for the plants. We chatted and he left without taking a single note. More work is the best way to stop worrying or thinking of things beyond our control.

We were not the only busy ones, the Namma Bengaluru Foundation was following their own timeline. The Award function was on 16th March and the countdown must have begun to sift through the 53 short listed nominees and make their final selection.

It was the Award Day at last and we reached the venue well in time.

Malleswaram ground. What did it look like normally? Certainly not as it looked that evening. Colouful pandal, lights, volunteers, music, stalls, vigilant policemen and people streaming inside. The next few hours were surreal. We simply didn't know where to look! Do we see the dancers, the VIPs entering, the huge stage brightly lit (with Raghu Dixit's drums in silhouette), speed artist Vilas Nayak who won as much applause for hailing from Malleswaram as for his swift but dramatic creation of Kempe Gowda 1, bearing a shield and sword or of "Bangarada Manushya" Dr. Raj Kumar?

The stage was set for announcing the winner in each category. Fellow trustees Nupur Jain and O.P. Ramaswamy sitting on either side of me were a study in contrast. Nupur was on the edge of the seat, clearly unable to control her tension. OPR was his usual calm and composed self. Beyond him sat Prasanna in deep conversation with PNLIT well wisher Jagadeesh Maiya who had come to cheer us just in case we won. Unable to join us in person, trustee Arathi Manay watched the webcast in Mumbai biting her nails perhaps! She had the presence of mind, however, to forward the link to the PNLIT e-group, several of whom watched the live streaming as well.

The NBA trophy

The winners in several categories had been announced. All individuals. What if we won? Would all of us go up to receive the award? What would we do afterwards? There were only 11 chairs for the winners on the dais. We have to give a speech? Oh, oh. Questions, mumbled answers, rising tension as the nominees in our category "Citizen Groups/NGO" were named.

Eleven names, the maximum in any category. Each one highly deserving of The Award. Who was going to be the lucky one? Show host Vasanthi Hariprakash invited a dignitary to announce the winner. We were far too tensed to remember his name but we needed to hear only the first word from his lips to cheer and jump from our seats! When we went up to the dais, it was in a daze, not hearing the applause, not seeing anyone but the Chief Guest, Prof G Venkatasubbaiah, all of 100 years, renowned Kannada lexicographer who handed over the trophy, replica of Kempe Gowda's tower (which had marked the four boundaries of the city) and an envelope. A battery of photographers froze that moment, a milestone for PNLIT.

PNLIT receiving the award

Winners all!

As Chairperson, I delivered a speech which was short but after the really brief ones by earlier winners, I seemed to speak forever! I'd like to repeat the thought with which I concluded - A Big Thank you to the Environment Cell, BBMP and to each individual who helped us along the way. Their names are too many to be listed here but we are so grateful to them and to all our volunteers and donors who are helping us transform the lake and finally to our families for tolerating our madness, our obsession with lake restoration.

We relived the excitement the next morning with our volunteers who'd come to work at the lake. The award belongs as much to them as to PNLIT.

Volunteers with the NBA trophy

For a more objective account of the NBA function, please see the report here.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 22 is World Water Day. Don't take a rain check on it.

Reposting a message from The Alternative

This World Water Day, come engage with water in Bengaluru and how to save it.

Catch Every Drop Bengaluru

Bangalore is fast running out of water. There is no source today that can address the 1.3 billion litres of water that we need every day. Not the Cauvery river that is 100 kms away and provides for less than 50% of the population’s water needs. Not the private tankers that are scourging for water inside 4 lakhs borewells that go deeper and deeper everytime. Not the much exploited groundwater that was once recharged by 262 lakes and tanks that have now mostly vanished. If forecasts go right, at the current consumption rate, we have about 2 months of water supply left in the city.

The upcoming monsoon is our one chance to make sure the near future and after isn’t dry.

This World Water Day, 22nd and 23rd of March, we invite you to engage with water and how to save it – in your home, office, apartment and across the city.

March 22, 2013, Max Mueller Bhavan, Indiranagar, 6 pm - 9 pm
Water Matters: An interactive panel discussion featuring water experts - 1.3 billion litres/day in a drying city, where do we go from here? 
with Rohini Nilekani, Vishwanath Srikantaiah, Sekhar Raghavan and Usha Rajagopalan
What water means to me: A photo exhibition curated by Korkai, shot by citizens across India, through the Worth of Water online contest.

March 23, 2013, across the city

Savings on the house: Open Houses with water champions in homes and apartments across the city that have implemented model water conservation measures. 
The Lake Diaries: Photo walks along lakes in the city, led by professional photographers
Walk in the park: Guided tours and demos in the Rain Water Harvesting theme park, Cubbon Park and the Waste  Water Treatment Theme Park.

Come engage to save, harvest, recycle and refresh water in the city.

Log on to www.thealternative.in/catcheverydrop for everything that’s happening on 22nd and 23rd of March, plus tons of water conservation tips, ideas, success stories, expert insights and more!

Catch Every Drop is a campaign on water conservation in Bengaluru, run by The Alternative, a media platform for sustainable living, sponsored by Arghyam, with partners India Water Portal and Biome Environmental Solutions.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Namma Bengaluru Awards Night 16th March 2013

For the second consecutive year, PNLIT is one of the shortlisted nominees of the Namma Bengaluru Awards - for 2012!

The Namma Bengaluru Awards, instituted by the Namma Bengaluru Foundation, will be presented this Saturday 16th of March at 6 pm at the Malleshwaram Grounds. The awards will be given away in a glittering event of music, dance and entertainment. 
Total of 53 finalists in 9 categories will vie for the prestigious NBA.

A 20 member jury, under the Chairmanship of Pradeep Kar, Founder, Chairman and Managing Director, Microland, consisted of prominent citizens of Bengaluru from the fields of art and culture, music, literature, law, media and environment. The jury, after serious deliberations spanning over four sessions over eight weeks, short-listed 53 finalists in nine categories. Of this, names of 11 winners will be announced on Saturday.
Internationally renowned audit and process firm KPMG were engaged as audit partners to ensure transparency in the process of nomination and selection of the winners.
"The Namma Bengaluru Awards selection process reached a different level this year. From the enormous number of nominations (61,000+) to the tremendous quality of nominations. It was truly a very difficult process to select one amongst the finalists, all of who deserved to win the award. It is truly gratifying to see the selfless commitment of these individuals and organizations, most of whom go unrecognized in their journeys. I am delighted that the Namma Bengaluru Foundation has chosen to recognize these selfless leaders/organisations, all of who are making an immense difference to our city, silently." said Pradeep Kar, at the final deliberation of the nominations today.
Entry to the Awards function is free and citizens can come and enjoy an evening of pride, glitz and glamour. The entire awards ceremony will be webcast live.
Read the full article with all the details and see the list of the 53 shortlisted nominees here.

Good luck PNLIT!

The weekend is here again!

Volunteers who attended last weekend's deweeding sessions at Puttenahalli Lake admit it was hard, but satisfying work. Though we had dissuaded children from "working", there were several who accompanied their parents and finally joined in.

Here is what some of the volunteers had to say, after putting in a good few hours last Sat/ Sun morning.

Shankar Iyer
It was a great feeling to get down to the surface of the lake and  "de-weed." I had a feeling that Mother Nature was asking for a small assistance  from our side to help her bloom and extend "her healing effects of calmness" on us for the coming monsoon season..!
It was also a great place for making new friends from the neighbourhood who had just pitched in with their assistance during their regular morning walk. I was delighted  to observe  children ( 5  to 15 years) scraping away and transferring the sackful of weeds energetically.
Even though de-weeding the entire lake surface is a challenging task to be completed before the onset of monsoon, but I believe anything  is possible provided we have the drive and the passion for it.
Personally I'm committed to it as I would like to have the same experience which I had last year walking around the Puttenhalli Lake. The lake in its pristine beauty with the birds landing smoothly on the calm surface of water,  fish frolicking around on the surface, brought calmness to the mind and emphasised that nature was still beautiful as it always has been.
The only effort we humans have to put forward is to create space for nature to bloom in the current concrete jungle of our city life!

Shome Sengupta 
The men and women, boys and girls of our neighbourhood are taking small steps in protecting and nurturing the lake. Planting trees to prevent soil erosion. Weeding the waterbed to let the soil breathe. And the reason we feel so enthusiastic is that we can see our actions as firm steps towards rejuvenating the lake. in our mind, we can see the ripples of water this monsoon, and a safe haven for migratory birds in the winter.

Shana Gokul 
It was nice to see a good number of volunteers who despite their busy schedules decided to spend some time for deweeding the lake. The work in itself was not easy but all of them put in their full effort and managed to clear a substantial portion of the lake in few hours.
I am glad that my 10 year old son showed interest to join as a volunteer for deweeding the lake. It is exam time, still, in his enthusiasm to join us he did all his studies the previous day itself. I could make out his excitement on seeing big earthworms, rescuing fishes, was listening when one of the volunteer was explaining about the fish, though he was exhausted being in the sun, he enjoyed himself thoroughly and at the same time helped in whatever way he could. I am glad that I could take him to close to nature and experience it first-hand.
I am definitely coming next week with my son again and I wish more volunteers could join us in the next week's cleaning session.

Vidula K
Deweeding the Puttenahalli lake was a hands-on experience, rather unique and not given to all. We were a group of people on the lake bed, under the rising and heating sun uprooting the weed that was quietly killing the lake. I didn't know the others till afterwards but for those two hours or so we, one child of 6 years and the rest of us, adults worked in unison with determination and absolute love for our neighbourhood lake. I will go again next weekend and do my share to ensure that the killing weed is removed, that the fish have more room to swim, that sunlight falls on the water, that our lake thrives once again. 

Please join us again at Puttenahalli Lake this weekend - 
Saturday 16th March and Sunday 17th March 
7 a.m. to 10 a.m. 
Please bring a cap and drinking water for yourself. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Report on the volunteering weekend at Puttenahalli Lake

Saturday, 9th March 2013

With some 20 volunteers responding to our call to remove the drying aquatic weed from the lake bed, it was a most satisfying morning today!

Their enthusiasm was infectious and several people stopped jogging/walking to see what they were doing, then joined them to remove the drying Salvinia Molesta. Working with a rake, a spade or simply scooping up the weed with bare hands, they filled plastic bags, formed a line on the slope, handed each bag over the grill where others waited to cart them away. The dry Salvinia can be used for mulching or composting. We have opted to compost them by laying them along the boundary fence.

Despite working hard for over two hours, only a patch of ground has been cleared. With more of you joining us tomorrow (and on subsequent weekends) we should be able to accomplish our mission of clearing the lake bed and getting it ready for the monsoon. 

Scooping the weed
More hands, less work
Aerial view
Hauling the weed
Waiting to be carted
Young helpers
Cleared patch

Sunday, 10th March 2013

Another good morning at the lake today with some new volunteers joining us. 

Y/day's experienced hands were surprised to see fish in parts of the lake, below the weed. A few were dead but thankfully, most were alive. It was not possible to pull the weed out since the fish were coming with it so the kind souls made holes in the Salvinia for the fish to breathe. A couple of volunteers transferred the fish to the pools of water, carrying them in a bucket of water. It must have been a poignant moment for our volunteers renewed their effort to pull out more Salvinia and clean the ground. 

It was a hot morning but all of us felt the satisfaction of having done a good job. 

Dedicated work
Slow and steady

Heart felt thanks to all volunteers. We look forward to having you over next weekend. Do share your experience in this forum and with your family and friends and get them over as well! 

Report and pics: Usha Rajagopalan

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Flamingo Festival 2013

The enchanting sight of infinite pink spots on the marshy Sewri mudflats is enough justification for a ride into this dusty, smoky industrial part of south Mumbai. Located along the Arabian Sea, on the eastern coast of the island city, the Sewri (pronounced Shivdi) Jetty is where the Mumbai Port Trust, Tata Electricals, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the refineries of ONGC, BPCL and HP are located. Dominated by mangroves, it is also the place where 15,000-17,000 migratory flamingos spend a few months every year (generally October-March).

Click the pics to enlarge 
Infinite pinks spots with the backdrop of oil refineries

Of the five flamingo species of the world, two species, the Greater Flamingo and the Lesser Flamingo are found in India. Mainly resident in Gujarat (presumed Rann of Kutch region) during the breeding season, they are known to winter in warmer parts of India including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The Greater Flamingo is one of Bangalore's winter migratory birds, but sightings over the past few years have been occasional, and restricted to select locations like Madiwala Lake and Halagur Lake. The Lesser Flamingo does not come to Bangalore, probably because its diet comprises mainly of algae found in alkaline waters that are absent in the city. 

The Flamingo Festival is a one-day event organized by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) at Sewri mudflats every year. During the event, the public gets an opportunity to see the white Greater Flamingo (about 1,500-2,000) and the pink Lesser Flamingo (about 15,000), apart from several other birds (darters, egrets, gulls, herons, ibises, kingfishers, pigeons, plovers, sandpipers, terns …) under the guidance of BNHS experts. An exhibition attempts to educate the public on flamingos and how we can help in protecting them. With its breeding habitat under threat, the Lesser Flamingo numbers have been on the decline and it is presently classified in the IUCN Near-Threatened List.    

Flamingo Festival, Sewri, 9th March 2013

After repeated postponement of this must-see Mumbai sight, there was no better day than today (9th March 2013), the day of the Flamingo Festival, for my family to make the trip to the mudflats. And we have absolutely no regrets!

Conserving the habitat of the Greater Flamingo in Bangalore will bring it back to the city. Bangaloreans need to go for it. Maybe one day they will stop over at Puttenahalli Lake!

Pink flamingos with a sheet of white gulls in the background

Several other birds spotted in flight and on the mud

Boys on mud skis disturb the peace, making the flamingos move around

A crowd on the jetty

The rising tide brings the flamingos closer up for a better view

Greater flamingos just a few metres from the jetty

Abandoned boats along the coast spoil the view,
but they provide shelter to some species of birds, fish, crustaceans and others

BNHS had shuttle buses to carry visitors between Sewri (E) Station and Sewri Jetty

Binoculars at regular intervals give a close-up view,
BNHS guides help with bird IDs and info

Flamingo information, tattoos, paintings and more!
Madiwala Lake and Mysore - the two Karnataka spots for the Greater Flamingo

Ancient birds

Flamingo tattoos for adults...

... and children

Prize-winning paintings from a competition on flamingo conservation

Span your wings. Which bird are you?

Ref: Bombay Natural History Society promotion material 
Pics: Arathi Manay

Friday, March 8, 2013

Woman's ingenuity at Puttenahalli Lake

We at PNLIT feel blessed and privileged to get an opportunity to see the revival of a lake at such close quarters. We cherish the experience and want to share it with everybody. After all, how many people get such a fantastic opportunity to save a lake? 

Yesterday morning the workers began laying the pipes to complete the diversion channel. Using a JCB to dig the trenches and a crane to lift the 45 in dia pipe and keep it in place in the trench was quite a sight! 

By late afternoon, the sky darkened. Out of 18 pipes only three were left. It began to rain and then eased into a drizzle. The machine operators, dry in their cabins, called out to the workers to resume but the men didn't budge. We were worried that the work would get postponed to the next day and called the contractor. He was stuck in traffic. 

Just then a woman came briskly along the walking track. Her sari was tucked firmly at her waist and she held it up from the muddy ground. On her head was a white plastic bag keeping the rain away. Not looking at the workers or the trench, she picked her way quickly but carefully over the piles of soil, past the monster machines and went her way. 

The next thing we knew, the workers, all male, asked our gardener Kumar for plastic bags which they tied around their heads and began to work once again!

On Women's Day, we salute this unknown woman's ingenuity. Thanks to her, all the 18 pipes were laid yesterday and the JCB is levelling the ground today morning!

You can do your bit for Puttenahalli Lake! Join us this weekend (see previous post).

Text and pics: Usha Rajagopalan

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Volunteers needed this weekend at Puttenahalli Lake

Work on the Diversion Channel is proceeding well and with a reasonably good monsoon this year we hope to divert lots more rain water into our Puttenahalli Lake. We may even see our wish fulfilled finally - the lake bed covered with water and not a bit of ground to be seen! 

Diversion channel work in progress, Feb 2013 (Pics: Usha Rajagopalan)

Now, when the water level is at its lowest, is the right time to remove the invasive weed Salvinia Molesta from the lakebed. Will you help us get the lake ready for the monsoon? Help us get rid of the weed and bring the birds back to our lake? Help us get the lake ready for April showers?
Please volunteer your time and effort for just three hours this weekend!!

Dates: Sat. 9th and Sun. 10th March.
Time: 7 to 10 a.m.
Age: 16 years and above. There's no risk involved but we would like to focus and not have to supervise children. :-)

Volunteers will be required to wear comfortable shoes (not open sandals) and a hat. Gloves optional.
Email confirmation <puttenahalli.lake@gmail.com> will be very welcome but you can always drop in unannounced, pick up a rake and scoop out the weed this weekend!