Sunday, February 07, 2016

Akshayanagar Lake

I moved to Akshaya nagar around 2 years back in Dec 2013. There was a lake in Akshaya nagar, but there was no water in it, so when I first saw the lake, it was kind of a dead lake with lots of weeds and construction derbies all around the lake. Right from day one I was very much fascinated with the lake, I kept thinking something needs to be done and I can't let it die like other lakes in Bangalore. One day I dropped a mail to Bangalore lake development authority saying that there is a beautiful lake in the area and I would like to work on that, but would like to have some inputs from them. This was the turning point the reply I got was that there was already a team in Akshayanagar who are working on restoring of the lake. I tired to meet these people who turned out to be residents of Akshayanagar and from whom I got to meet few very very passionate people who were very concerned at the rapid growth of the area without a good plan. Its through them that I got to know about the history of the lake that in 2009 one side of the lake bund was strengthened, most of the sewage was blocked, fenced and entire lake was cleaned up at huge cost running in lakhs. But over a period of few years it was again same story. So when I first saw the lake it was empty, weeds all around, construction derbies every where. 

A week before 2014 Gandhi Jayanti, quite a few residents decided to clean a patch of the lake. So myself along with my cousin Anirudh and Archana we decided to adopt a small island and clean it up. We decided to plant few plants and maintain the same. But around same time the prime minister Narendra Modi called for Swach Bharath campaign and on the Gandhi Jayanti of 2014 around 100 people turned up for cleaning up of the lake. It was a one day affair they worked for 3-4 hours on that particular day, cleaned up as much as possible and left. But I was very much encouraged by the turn out on that particular day which got almost half of the lake cleaned up. But with in a short time it was again back to the same sorry state. Also the number of apartments in the area was increasing at a very rapid pace with all construction derbies landing either inside or in and around the lake.
We were cleaning on weekends and when we go back after a week it would look same like the week before.Slowly we also started loosing hope and our activism was dying a natural death with lack of interest and participation. Around the same time I also got very busy with many other personal work and lost focus for quite a few months. 

Its surprising how nature connects the dots, it was sometime in 2015 july/aug, I was watching the lake and was thinking something needs to be done, can't let go such a vast piece of land. Finally I decided from next week I will again work on the island which we had cleared almost a year back and start a small garden. To my surprise when I got up that weekend I saw 3 more people in the lake it was our Ramesh Sir, Pavan Sanganal and Prashanth. I went to the lake and said it so nice to see them as I was thinking on working on our island as well. My self and Anirudh decided to work on the island and the other 3 people decided to work on a patch of land next to ours.

I believe that day was a very good day, from that day on every thing we touched just turned gold. After few weeks of cleaning we were no were and finally we decided to buy a weed cutting machine to speed up the things. Until now which was like weekend workout on fields to stay in good health all of a sudden turned out to be passion once the weed cutting machine came up. When we started seeing the changes, ideas started flowing on how and what all things could be done.

The sound of the weed cutting machine on a early weekend morning at 6:30 am started acting as an alarm, many people who were walking on roads were curious to know what was happening inside the lake. Quite a few thought probably BBMP/Government is doing something. Quite a few asked which department we work for and quite a few asked how much was BBMP/Government was paying us. 

Slowly many people residing in and around the lake felt good about the activity and lots of progress being done over a period of a month or two. Many people started joining us and started participating every weekend. In four months time we cleaned up the entire lake of around 700+ meters by clearing of all debris, blocking of sewage entry to the lake, cutting of all the weeds. The labour of every volunteer was completely free, only thing which was needed was petrol and maintenance of the machine and few more tools for cleaning. We pooled around 100 Rs/month from every interested individual. Over a period of 4 months we spent around 5800 Rs to clean up the entire lake bund, not many could actually believe that we only spent such a small amount.

Yet we had problems with 2 things, no one was willing to enter the lake and either during the day time when we were in office or during night, people use to come and dump derbies or garbage in the vicinity there by spoiling all the hard work done. Finally the moment came when the association was celebrating its 10th anniversary and had invited both MLA and corporater of the area. Our team decided with Ramesh sir, and in a short notice on the day of the function I prepared a 10 slide ppt about how the lake was and what we have done in 4 months time. Ramesh sir decided to present  it. This was the stage we were looking for, we presented the happenings to all the residents of Akshayanagar with photographic evidence on how we changed it.

Many were curious how such a small team can do this, quite a few were surprised when they heard about the money that was spent. We started getting more and more visitors both to the lake as well as more and more people started connecting and showing interest on the FB page. Slowly many people who were old and couldn't help us with work at least wanted to help us with funds. 

As volunteer list grew, we had 100 eyes monitoring the lake from getting littered, funds started flowing for different ideas that were being proposed like having benches, boards and many more. Things started moving in a professional manner. What started as a hobby for few, started turning as passion for many and list was just growing. Today when I went to lake in the evening I could see around 150+ people walking, many might not even know who did this but we as a team are very proud that we managed something which was not easy at all. This project has given a lot of confidence among the residents of the area to take up lot of other progressive developmental activities quite a few of which are already happening. 

I always believed both  good and bad work are infectious, you do something bad others will follow and you do something good others will follow as well. Now after 6 months I don't see any body throwing anything in and around our lake. That should explain on what we have done. Many a times we get to hear Government has not done this or that, but I always say if I am living in an area why should I depend on others, If we start doing things ourselves I am sure government will not have any other option but to join us for a good cause. This is how we got a small bridge done inside the lake from our MLA :-). 

When I look back I can proudly say it would never have had happened without the support of all the lovely people I have met in the process. As a team we are phenomenal and we can be proud of what we have done.

We have created a facebook page which has all the details about our activity with photos.


Sreedhara Kanatoor said...

Indeed a great work by the collective enthusiastic young team guided by committed elders. Alas google has not yet covered this area with the latest photographs where a water filled lake could have been seen.

Fantastic team work. Khudos to all of you....

Anonymous said...

Teamwork made this turnaround and this is an example how every citizen can bring change in his/her surrounding.
All it needs is 2-3 hrs time towards our surrounding area...!!!
Pavan Sanganal

Anonymous said...

Superb story of team effort. Great Job done guys. You are the people who have made a huge difference to our society. Please keep the good infectious work going on ....

Arathi Manay said...

Thanks for sharing this story. Hope it reaches those who think that one or two people cannot change the world. Congratulations to the whole team.

Anonymous said...

Great work. Very inspiring. Hope more people join and make Bangalore a better place.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the Surface Area of the Lake?

Sreedhara Kanatoor said...

Its perimeter is around 722 meters and area is 19,054 sqare meters as measured on google earth. This may vary by about 5% + or -.