Much before Bengaluru was called a Garden City, it was called the City of Lakes thanks to its 1200 lakes, 40 to 50 per cent of which were man-made. The founder of the city, Kempegowda, provided for lakes because it did not have a perennial source of water and he foresaw the rise in its population. He therefore built the Hesaraghatta lake and TG Halli reservoir.
The purpose of artificial lakes is to store rain water, recharge groundwater and cool the city. People in the past wore sweaters during summer as the temperature never crossed 26 degrees Celsius. Whenever it became warm, water from the lakes would evaporate, forming clouds that would lead to light showers. This made for excellent climate.
But fast forward to now, when we have haphazard growth and increasing migration of people to the city, which has a population of over a crore. With so many people, vehicles and factories, we started to lose our water bodies. Labourers, who migrated here, found nowhere to stay but around lakes, which they used for bathing and so on.
Also, we were ignorant and turned our lakes into the Majestic bus stand, Kanteerva stadium and NGV layout. We did not realise that the catchment area of lakes is equally important, if not more, than the lake itself as the water flowing into the lake from surrounding areas is rich in minerals and nutrients from the top soil, and serves as food for aquatic plants and animals.
Unfortunately, the lakes that are left like the Bellandur, have become polluted due to sewage being let into them. The people who are responsible, don't realize that their borewell water may also get contaminated as the groundwater gets polluted.
The government needs to have a plan considering the city's carrying capacity. We have one crore people depending on the Cauvery and boast of the IT industry, but the city cannot sustain such unprecedented growth. We can't get back the old lakes, but we can still save the current ones. This will require installing of sewage treatment plants, insistence on rain water harvesting and decongesting the city by developing more suburbs.
Take the Sarakki lake, which was saved by the government and locals working together or the MK Halli lake, that is seeing water after 20 years due to the strengthening of its catchment area. All we need is political will for this transformation. The government only has to tell people that their water supply will be cut if rain water harvesting is not done in a month to see them fall in line....