World Water Watch: India Citizens Saving Gottigere Lake

BANGALORE – There is not always something that local citizens can do to remedy the problem of polluted water. However, residents of Bangalore who live alongside Gottigere Lake have banded together to reclaim the polluted water and return the lake to its once-pristine condition.

In view of World Water Day on March 22nd, here is their story.

Bangalore is known as a city of lakes, but Gottigere Lake has suffered from the expanded population in the area without the necessary infrastructure to the expansion.

The once beautiful, 37-acre lake, is now polluted with sewage and has become a dumping ground for trash. The contamination has been a matter of concern over the last decade. Officials empathized with local citizens and ordered the rerouting of a highway that was originally designed to cross the lake.

Despite that victory, residents have now complained that the local water and sewer authority in a nearby village has been allowing sewage to flow directly into the lake which is prohibited by the Water (prevention and control of pollution) Act. The Act requires “any sewerage outlet catering to more than 300 households be connected to a sewage treatment plant.”

Sometimes what is legally required is logistically impossible. That is the case with the current sewage lines. There is not a sewage treatment plant close enough to receive the wastewater from the communities from which it is flowing. Officials are working to redress the problem.

In the meantime, environmental and health-conscious citizens have undertaken an effort to clean and remove the trash and weeds in the lake that become a breeding ground for mosquitos.

After consulting with an architect who led a successful cleanup project on another lake, a group of residents began meeting at 6:30 one morning each week to remove trash, litter, and weeds. Once they initiated their efforts, other residents joined them. One disabled resident, who is otherwise unable to participate in the labor, helps by serving tea alongside the banks of the lake.

Long-time residents say that 15 years ago “This was a very big lake. The water flow was so strong that it would have flooded the (new) road. Now the water levels have dropped, and the water quality has deteriorated. But with the joint efforts of government and volunteers, we are hoping to see this lake full of water in a couple of years.

These residents are so committed that they refuse to wait for outside funding for their work. One resident said, “We want to bring this lake back to its original glory – fast.”

Building and maintaining infrastructure is difficult and time-consuming at best. In economies that are growing at a rate like that of India and China, it is sometimes nearly impossible. When officials and residents pull together great things, like reclaiming Gottigere Lake, can be done.


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