Friday, June 28, 2013


Spot-billed ducklings (left, in the water), Coot (right, in the water), parents (right, on the grass), 
25-Jun-2013 Pic: Usha Rajagopalan

It has been just over a month (after the first heavy rains in May) since we noticed several birds, including a pair of Indian Spot-billed ducks (Anas poecilorhyncha), back at Puttenahalli Lake. 

The Spot-billed Duck likes freshwater lakes and marshes. It feeds by dabbling in shallow waters and marshland, mainly on plant food like seeds, grasses and aquatic vegetation. It also looks for aquatic insects and their larvae, snails and other molluscs, worms and other small creatures.

The ducks must have been waiting to lay their eggs! With an incubation period of about four weeks, the ducks did not lose any time. "PNLIT now grandparents!", said Usha as she spotted two little ducklings on 25th June. And despite being under the watchful eyes of the adults, one of the Coots was chasing them! .   

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Water flowing through inlets

We are not always present at the lake to see water actually flowing in through the inlets. Last Saturday (22nd June) however, we got to see the highly gratifying sight of rain water gushing into the lake. 

Adjacent inlets - BM Avenue and Coconut grove
Clear water from BM Avenue (extreme left corner)

Muddy water from the coconut grove

The photographs show rain water coming in from the two inlets adjacent to each other. The inlet in the foreground is the new diversion channel. It does not have a hole in the wall but the water spills over the top. Since this is surface run off from the BM avenue, the water is quite clean and colourless. The coconut grove water is muddy.  


Pics - Pranshu Jain

Monday, June 24, 2013

The weekend that was

Bosch Volunteers at the lake
Saturday, 22nd June 2013

The volunteers who come to work at the lake have always impressed us with their dedication and hard labour. The group of 30 Bosch employees who came to Puttenahalli Lake this past Saturday was no less. After a brief introduction and welcome, they set to work in two teams as planters and diggers. 

The planters had a short stretch of flower bed in which to plant Lantana. Nupur guided them on how to take out the plant out of the pot with its roots intact, planting it in the pit and packing the soil around the base. The others grabbed spades, pick axe and even heavy crowbars to loosen the soil so that their friends could pull out the weeds. Their work was initially confined to the ground around the exercise bars but their pace was so swift that in no time the leaf composter was filled to the brim. They dug out rocks hidden below the ground and made a heap of them. Clearing the hard ground around the the base of the two Mahogany trees was done in a jiffy. They dug a pit around the base and planted Portulaca. Our PNLIT stone was surrounded with Portulaca as well. 

We then set the eager beavers of planters and diggers to clear the side of the walking track overgrown with weeds. Once cleared, they planted rows of white lilies. What we particularly liked about their approach was that they took the trouble to clear up as well. They swept the place, gathered stones, plastic and trash and piled garden waste in the wheel barrow and took it all the way to the corner plot reserved for composting. 

Special mention must be made of the quartet who, led by Ravi Suresh, quietly worked within the inner grill clearing the weeds around the plants which other volunteers had planted a couple of weeks ago. 

By 10 o'clock when they decided to put spades down, it was with a great deal of satisfaction, both for them and for us. Their leaving was on a high note with Manjunath Phadnis sweeping into the car park in his personal auto! Sporting the Bosch sticker and the CNG label, his auto is by far one of the best maintained we'd ever seen in the city. Nupur took a ride in it home and gave her thumbs up wholeheartedly. It was for the first time that she also didn't have to wrangle with the driver! 

The Bosch volunteer group

The planting group

Clearing and cleaning

Clearing the base around a Mahogany

Far from the crowd

The Bosch touch

More pictures on picasaweb can be seen here.

Walk with a Changemaker
Sunday, 23rd June 2013

The walk, organised by the Bangalore Chapter of Rang De Rang De was done around Puttenahalli Lake, with me representing PNLIT. Some 35 people from across the city and the neighbourhood had assembled for the walk which began at 11 a.m. and ended at 12.30 p.m. I took them through the PNLIT journey from the early "save the lake" days to now being recognized as a "Change Maker." This has been a journey in which we've been so ably supported by all our donors and volunteers. Two highlights about the walk will stay in my mind for a long time. 

We had put up a small photographic exhibition showing the plight of vanishing lakes in the city; of Puttenahalli Lake before, during and after restoration and of the rich aquatic life it supports. This attracted attention not only of the Walk participants but also several others who saw the photographs and left. One man however, tall, bearded, with a towel tied around his salt and pepper hair stayed on while I made the presentation. 
Talking about our effort to fill the lake with rain water, I went closer to the grill where the man stood, to show the group the newly installed diversion channel. I thought he would leave at least then but no, he didn't. Instead he heard the narration and began walking with us. Finally, he said in Kannada, "Though you were speaking in English, I could follow a little. You were talking about clearing the lake. Yes, it does need to be kept clean." Without waiting for a response, he walked away. This is an affirmation that I will cherish but how I wish my fluency in Kannada was better!

Another memorable moment was with Soumya and her daughter, among the first people to reach the lake. The girl of about 7 years was clearly delighted to be there. Soumya explained that the child had visited the lake in a trip organized by her play school a couple of years ago or so. Since then, every time she went past the lake, she had insisted on her parents stopping the car and bringing her inside. She validates our belief in promoting conservation through children. 

An appeal especially to parents living in the vicinity - please bring your children to lake and introduce them to Nature. It is a lesson they will treasure for life. 

An attentive audience


Photos: Nupur Jain

Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Be the Change" Walk at Puttenahalli Lake, 23rd June 2013

Rang De Bangalore Chapter invites you to join us for a "Walk with a Changemaker", where volunteers of the Chapter and other interested, socially conscious individuals get to interact with renowned Changemakers who have been impacting society in their own way and bringing about positive social change. During previous events, we've had Changemakers from domains such as Waste Management, Education/Mentoring join us and share their thoughts about their work. The Chapter hopes that the thought-provoking discussions that volunteers have with the Changemakers might inspire individuals to themselves become agents of change!

This week, we have Ms. Usha Rajagopalan, joining us as the Changemaker during the walk. She has been spearheading the Puttenahalli Neighborhood Lake Improvement Trust (PNLIT) and helped bring back to life a lake that was on the brink of extinction! She will share with us her learnings from the challenges faced and successes of the PNLIT campaign so far!

We assemble at the park beside the lake at 10.55 am for a 11.00 am start on 23rd June,Sunday. Please call Asha on 9845447630 or Zishan on 9538576386 or Sreekanth on 9739142852, if you need further information.

We request you to kindly share this within your network and invite as many people to join us on the 23rd June 2013.

Thank you very much, again!

Warm regards,
Rang De Bangalore Chapter

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

PNLIT, you and Puttenahalli Lake

June is an important month for PNLIT. It was in June 2010 that we registered the trust with four founder members - Arathi Manay, Prasanna Vynatheya, OP Ramaswamy and myself. We began with one agenda - save our neighbourhood lake from becoming extinct. Once BBMP began rejuvenating the lake, we raised the bar for ourselves - to transform it into an avian habitat; involve the neighbourhood in its maintenance. 

Highlighting our journey so far, Arathi sent this succinct yet poetic mail to our egroup on the 11th June 2013: 

PNLIT completes three years today! A big thank you to the BBMP, contractors, suppliers, staff, donors, volunteers and other well-wishers for another fulfilling year.

Birds, butterflies, nests, trees, flowers, fruit... 
Donations, sponsorship, fund raising, volunteering... 
Innovation, awards, recognition, luck...
Vandalism, indifference, Salvinia...
Lake saviours all over Bangalore...
Support, cooperation, participation...
All these, and more! 

We look back at the transformation of Puttenahalli Lake with a lot of satisfaction and gratitude... 

It is true that we've achieved a great deal but there's a lot more we have to do. Our constraint is manpower. We are only five trustees, Nupur Jain being the fifth and given our personal and professional assignments, at any point in time only one or two of us are available or in town. In addition to our other commitments, we devote very many hours at the lake each day, not to mention the time we spend on planning, executing, coordinating, emailing, contacting different government agencies and officials, individuals, raising funds, interacting with the press and different lake groups across the city, etc. That the lake is steadily coming to life while supporting a wide range of life forms and recharging the water table is what keeps us going. PNLIT has indeed succeeded in ensuring that the Puttenahalli lake does not join the ranks of vanished lakes in the city. 

With your assistance, we can do all that we want/have to without burning ourselves out. Some of the tasks (to begin with!) for which we need your help are given below:  
  1. Create flower beds. You'll need to identify the kind of plants (preferably which will attract butterflies), source them and coordinate the planting with our volunteers. 
  2. Cover the boundary fencing likewise with vines and climbers. Requirement as above.
  3. Landscaping at select spots (such as the one in Pic1 below). Requirement as above.
  4. Set up a vermicomposting unit. It doesn't matter if you don't know how to do this. There are several websites you can refer to such as the one here.
  5. The composting unit could come in the corner plot (as we refer to it) near the culvert (see Pic2). This place needs to be cleaned (work already begun with hired help) and maintained. 
  6. Despite their zeal and enthusiasm, if we do not call volunteers over on some weekends or ask them to come only on a Saturday or a Sunday, it is because we've had a particularly tiring week. As Volunteer Coordinators, you'll need to assign work for the day; reach before the volunteers arrive, arrange distribution of garden equipment and supervise their work. 
  7. Develop a range of PNLIT products in order to raise funds. Shome Sengupta has offered his help. You can join him. 
  8. Water from the new diversion channel is falling with such force that it has dislodged the granite stones below it. To reduce the force, we'd like you to explore the possibility of making the inflow cascade like a waterfall into a pond (see Pic3 below). You'll need to get technical guidance (we know a couple of experts) and get the work done through hired help. 
  9. Coordinate the activities for children  who want to take up social service as part of the International Award for Young People. This is a great way to promote conservation and the dignity, value of physical work among youngsters who are mostly in Std 9. 
  10. If you are not able to spend time at the lake, you can still help from home. We have a rich photograph collection of birds and butterflies spotted at the lake. These photos, photos and more photos (all in soft copy) need sorting and arranging. Along with the flora and fauna, they are an invaluable record of how the lake has evolved. 
Pic1 - spot for landscaping

Pic2 - culvert corner, proposed place for composting

Pic3 - our waterfall dream!

By forming teams for each of these tasks, the work load will be distributed and lightened. Though we are no experts, we will share with you whatever we know, give you contacts and of course bear the financial cost involved in implementation. 

Together we can achieve our ultimate goal of making Puttenahalli, the people's lake. With hundreds of lakes in the city vanishing, ours is a rarity - a thriving lake. Let's keep it that way for our children's sake. 

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Usha Rajagopalan
Chairperson, PNLIT

Monday, June 17, 2013

PNLIT Volunteer Teaching Program - Update

Classes at the lake

Chetana Mahadevan started English classes for five 6th grade students 2 weeks ago. Since then 2 more have joined in. Chetana teaches the kids 4 times a week. The students are regular and on time.

Karthik took the first Math class for the two 11th grade girls (Deepu and Ramya), and that went exceedingly well as well. Karthik will teach them from 10 to 12 every Sunday.

Lalitha Kamath will be teaching Accountancy to Ramya. She will be taking her first class during the latter part of this week.

Teaching has become Dr. Narayanan Iyer's full time job now :). He is teaching 7-8 kids out of his house, and also pitches in with Deepu & Ramya and with the co-ordination.

I continue to teach computers to Deepu, Ramya and Raghu. I have started teaching 2 more kids (Pooja & Praveen - siblings). They are in the 6th and 7th grade and were introduced to me by Dr. Iyer. They are part of the batch of kids he teaches.

Thank you everyone for volunteering. We are still on the lookout for volunteers to teach Computer science (C++ programming), Business Studies and Economics. 

Vivek Krishna 
(Volunteer Coordinator, PNLIT classes at the lake)

If you can volunteer to teach any of the subjects, please email <>

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Return of the Prodigal Birds

From the time our lake was being rejuvenated three years ago to last August we had spotted over 55 species of birds at the lake, most aquatic, few migratory and some land birds. Last year though with the water level dipping and the Salvinia spreading like a thick mat on whatever little water was left, the only bird that remained at the lake was the Purple Heron, a solitary figure that was clearly getting enough food despite the Salvinia and dying fish.

Over the past couple of weeks, the prodigal birds are slowly returning home. The first to come were the Purple Swamp hens and the Spot-billed ducks. Then came the Common Coots followed by the Dab Chicks, Lesser Whistling Ducks and a stray Grey Heron. Also spotted were the Jacana (Lily-trotter) and Indian Shag. Surprisingly, our old friend the Purple Heron has gone missing. 

Not only are the new comers making themselves at home, the Dab chicks have started building nests as well (wonder if it has laid eggs already!). The Coots, always ferociously safeguarding their territory, chase each other making a sweep across the water. Interesting insights into the bird can be seen here.

Sharing a few pix of the birds, but nothing can beat seeing them at the lake! 

Indian Shag

Pheasant-tailed Jacana


Coot rippling water

Dab chick building nest

Myna on dead tree

Bring your children along. Unless you want to see the birds up close, you don't need binoculars. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Three years on

PNLIT completes three years today! A big thank you to the BBMP, contractors, suppliers, staff, donors, volunteers and other well-wishers for another fulfilling year.

Birds, butterflies, nests, trees, flowers, fruit... 
Donations, sponsorship, fund raising, volunteering... 
Innovation, awards, recognition, luck...
Vandalism, indifference, Salvinia...
Lake saviours all over Bangalore...
Support, cooperation, participation...
All these, and more! 

We look back at the transformation of Puttenahalli Lake with a lot of satisfaction and gratitude... 

June 2010 (View from South City side)

June 2013 (View from Viewing Deck/ Main Road side)

... and look forward to the continued support, cooperation and participation of all our well-wishers in realising the Puttenahalli Lake dream. 

Arathi Manay
for The PNLIT Team
11th June 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

Butterflies at Puttenahalli Lake

Of late we have been seeing a marked increase in the number of butterflies at the lake. We'd just planted the butterfly attracting shrubs and most are yet to flower so this cannot be why the butterflies are flitting around in such large numbers. 

Rather than break our heads seeking explanations and trying to identify the colourful butterflies, we sought help from Chinmayi S.K. a keen lepidopterist from Banashankari to visit the lake. She did so on 6th June and during her visit, she recorded as many as 15 species of butterflies. 

Here are Chinmayi's observations, some of the butterflies she photographed.

Species observed:

      Common Emigrant (on a Button Coat flower)

Plain Tiger

Striped Tiger
Dark Blue Tiger (on a Crown flower/ Calotropis gigantea)

Yellow Pansy (on a Lantana plant)

Peacock Pansy
Others (no pics)
Lemon Pansy 
Daniad Eggfly
Common Jezebel
Pale Grass Blue
Common Mormon
Crimson Rose
Grass Yellow ?
Double Banded Crow 

Behaviour observed
The Common Emigrant, Dark Blue Tiger, Lime and Double Banded Crow were migrating in huge numbers.
The Button Coat flowers serve as excellent nectar plants. The newly planted plants are yet to be a major attractor of butterflies. 

Visit the lake and see how many of these butterflies you can spot!


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Report on Volunteers' work at the lake, Sunday 9th June 2013

It was one hectic morning for the twenty or more volunteers who came to the lake today morning. Coming from South City, Brigade Millennium, Brigade Gardenia, Ramaiah Apartments (behind Sobha Tulip), J.P. Nagar 7th Phase, 24th Main, etc., they reinforced the meaning of the "Neighbourhood" in our Puttenahalli Neighbourhood Lake Improvement Trust. Meera coming from Banashankari extended the "neighourhood" some more! It is indeed incredible how concern about and involvement with the Puttenahalli Lake is bringing everybody together. Transporting the dead tree from South City to the lake bed proved this amply.

Four or five men volunteers walked down to South City to size up the tree. It was a little too heavy for them to carry. Fortunately though, just as we were returning to the lake, we saw a tractor unloading soil at the entrance. The driver very kindly brought the tree in the tractor to the lake thus saving us a great deal of trouble. Our volunteers carried it from the tractor along the walking path and, at the assigned spot, heaved it over the grill and down the slope. The tree tumbled and landed neatly at the lake bed still intact. From there to the waterline was another short stretch but it still took some effort all right. Within 15 minutes we'd accomplished our mission - provided aquatic birds with a beautiful perch. According to veteran ornithologist, Dr. S. Subramanya, it is like giving rich chocolate cake to children. :-)

While this set of volunteers was busy with the dead tree, others were busy sprucing up the space on either side of the new picket gate. By 9 a.m., the ground was cleared of plastic to the extent possible and rich red soil spread. Gardener Kumar began putting in stakes and by evening he will cordon the area. Next weekend, we'll complete planting here and move on to the next step towards transforming our neighbourhood, people's lake. We are looking to plant a flower border with three plant species in different colours and heights - Rasna (Alpinia calcarata Rox), a medicinal herb which grows up to 1.8 to 2.5 m in height, Tincture plant (Collinsia tinctoria), a low level plant in gorgeous shades of purple and multi-coloured Lantana.


A big thanks to all especially to teenager Kanha who cleared the dirtiest part of the area, right behind the garbage dump showing not the least trace of revulsion. As long as there are children like him and volunteers like all those who slaved today, there's hope that our neighbourhood will soon be a better, cleaner place!


Monday, June 3, 2013

Salvinia weevil released

Without much fanfare but certainly with a great deal of hope today afternoon we released the Salvinia weevil in two spots at the lake still infested with Salvinia Molesta. 

Salvinia weevils from Thrissur

Releasing the weevils, 3rd June 2013

From the time Dr. Subramanya, UAS, Bangalore identified it last September, this invasive fern has been the bane of our lake. When the water level receded to mere puddles, the Salvinia began to dry in large tracts. We got it removed manually through BBMP's workers. Very many resident volunteers living around the lake pitched in strongly on several weekends. When it seemed as if together we'd succeeded in getting the better of the Salvinia, a stray drizzle brought out fresh bunches of the killer fern. 

BBMP Contractor Harish was kind enough to send his men to remove the weed again, again and yet again on 22nd May. Using a cloth, they scooped out the Salvinia which we trustees piled on the side of the walking track. By 5 p.m. they had removed every bit that was visible to the eye. That evening it poured! A week later, we spotted the thing again! That's when we decided to change our strategy to a biological control through the weevil. More info on this weevil can be found here

Briefly, the weevil lays its eggs on the Salvinia. The larva "feeds voraciously on new buds, warping and stunting the plant until it eventually sinks." The weevil will not harm any plant other than the Salvinia. For it to grow, thrive and eradicate the Salvinia, the water is not to be disturbed and no pesticide is to be used. We intend to do neither. 

Scooping out the Salvinia

After clearing, 31st May 2013

Salvinia sprouting again, 3rd June 2013

Our sincere thanks to Dr. Ganga Visalakshy, Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore, Dr. Lyla K. R, Head, Biological Control Unit, KAU, Thrissur and to Mr. R. Ramani for bringing the weevil from Thrissur. 

Thanks also to everyone who patiently scooped out the Salvinia. Your work is not done yet. Now that you know how the Salvinia looks, please scan the water closely for its recurrence. According to Drs.Ganga and Lyla, it will take time for the weevil to act on the Salvinia and clear the lake of the infestation. One factor that could expedite the process is that the Salvinia typically grows in polluted water rich in nutrients. Our lake is free of sewage (except for what the people living on the lake bund throw inside) and filling rapidly with clean rain water! 


Volunteer English teachers wanted

Following the success of our PNLIT Classes at Puttenahalli Lake last academic year, at least 5 younger children are keen on learning English. Dr. Iyer who's been handling the English class is busy with the first batch, now in Class 11. Would you like to help these new students?

The classes will be held at the Gazebo at the lake. The timing of the classes and frequency will be fixed according to mutual convenience. These children are in the 5th and 6th standards. We've already got some text books from Pratham. Please help these underprivileged children with a little of your time and knowledge. Please get in touch with Usha <> for further details.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rain and Puttenahalli Lake

Several of the visitors to the lake, have marveled at how the level has gone up in just two or three days of pre-monsoon showers. The reason of course is that the rain has been heavy this year and more because, for the first time, some of the surface run off from the Brigade Millennium road is getting diverted into the lake through the new conduit. The story doesn't end here.

Visitors would have seen the enormous iron frame that was getting assembled on the ground between the security cabin and the gazebo. Thick iron rods have been placed over the frame to make a cow-catcher-like grill. This grill will replace the concrete slabs below the Brigade Millennium arch. Each of the slabs has two or three holes which do not permit much of the rain water to enter the trench below. Hence, rain water all these days was washing down the road like a stream. Now the grill will accept most, if not all, the surface water, and channel it into the lake. Consequently, the level at the lake will increase several times while preventing wastage of precious rain water.

Heavy duty grill

The grill is heavy duty in order to withstand the flow of traffic on this road. It is likely to be kept in place below the BM arch over the next few days. The process of digging out the slabs and replacing them with the grill will take a while and cause traffic snarls. Please bear with the inconvenience. 

Anticipating a substantial increase in the water level, we had wanted to plant a level marker but didn't get round to it, mostly because the lake bed does not have a uniform depth. The deepest place is between the island and the viewing deck. In fact, after the recent cleaning, there are pockets elsewhere which are at least 10 feet deep already. These pockets were those dug by the JCB during deweeding. The highest portion of the lake is the stretch along the coconut grove side towards the wetland.  In the two photographs below, one can see that the water is slowly inching forward, encircling the island. Use this as an indicator to see how much water has entered the lake since you last visited the lake.

Water around the island is an indicator of water rise

Evening drizzle

The drizzle this evening will increase the level by another few notches. More importantly, it will help the 300-odd shrubs planted by our volunteers over this weekend! :-)