Monday, August 15, 2016

What Independence means to me as a lake conservationist

Today as we celebrate our 70th Independence Day, I wonder what does it really mean to us. For me, it is about giving up my freedom to do whatever I want for my individual comfort but to think and act for the larger good. In other words, to be a responsible citizen. Not just one day but throughout the year. 

As citizen custodians of Puttenahalli lake we come across irresponsible behaviour from visitors every day. They litter the premises, despite the dustbins placed every few feet. They throw bottles, plastic bags and idols into the water which we keep clean with such difficulty. To pluck a single flower, they break branches. They mutilate signages; poach fish, set off a fire .... indeed, the list is endless. Over the past four days, we faced new problems from selfish individuals.

The owner of a vacant plot adjoining the lake, in the buffer zone, decided to construct a building. Towards this, he got a drilling machine last Friday and in no time the air was full of blow up particles that settled on trees, shrubs, walkway and everywhere. A good shower would wash these away but the whitish material mixed with water began to flow through the pipe and into the silt trap. The owner disregarded our appeals to block the mouth of the pipe and went ahead with the drilling. By the time the machine reached the ground water point, the silt trap filled to the brim with the white muck. If not removed at once, it will enter the lake with the next rain. Or else it would harden and make the silt trap dysfunctional. One man's indifference has led to such problems for us, for the lake!

Drilling in buffer zone

Result of drilling 14-Aug-16

Result of the drilling - silt trap filled

Yesterday at about 4.30 p.m., I happened to see three people rowing in the lake cleaner's coracle. It was obvious that they were not skilled at it. Rather than disturb my friends in PNLIT, I rushed to the lake. Even as they saw me, the slum residents shouted warnings to the people in the boat. Three boys ran ahead of me yelling "Madam barathaa idhaare!" The trespassers were unable to row fast enough and I caught up with them when they reached the place where the coracle is usually stationed. 

Two were in their late teens and one, Chandru, about 22 years old. They were old enough to know they were doing something wrong. The slum residents, young and old, who shouted out to them, knew this as well. My anger erupted because of what could have happened. The theppa was an old one and cracking. What if it had given way? What if the boys fell into the water which is as deep as 18 to 20 ft at places and got caught in the clay base, among the weeds? Why didn't anyone stop them? Didn't they value the boys' lives?

The worst cut of all was when I was rushing to catch the boys, two regular walkers at the lake asked "Who are the people in the theppa?" I asked them to come with me and question them. They said they would finish their round of the lake first!

The rowers

The boys who alerted the rowers

Today morning I see our national flag planted in one of the islands, standing tall and flapping in the breeze. It makes a gorgeous sight but my first thought is that just for a whim the person who planted it there could so easily have given up his life at Puttenahalli Lake!

The tricolour on one of the islands

With a deep sigh - Jai Hind!


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