100 acres of Rachenahalli Lake found behind the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Rural Energy & Development (MGIRED) in Bengaluru is beautiful. Just that it has no fencing; it has tall weeds, mounds of garbage, people defecating in the open, and sewage flowing in from surrounding areas.
But five years later, all that has changed. The lake is now fenced, marked by clean walking paths, benches, gazebos, a multi-purpose yoga platform, flourishing flora, and fauna, and sees more than 800 people take long walks on a weekday.
All thanks to the concerted efforts of Dr. Shobha Ananda Reddy and Jalmitra Trust.
Dr. Shobha was working for MGIRED and looking for space to plant bamboo saplings on World Bamboo day of September 2014, as part of the institute’s drive to popularise bamboo. The challenge involved planting a sapling and challenging your friends on social media to follow suit.
“Looking for space, I walked into this lake behind the institute which was in terrible state,” says Dr. Shobha.
The Rachenahalli lake covers about 110 villages. But these villages lacked a network for sewage diversion. What’s worse? The sewage due to the construction work in the vicinity was also dumped in the lake. Meanwhile, the outlet was blocked by a building company.
Dr. Shobha worked at MGIRED under senior Indian Forest Service officer Punati Sridhar, the Executive Director at the MGIRED. He inspired her to dive headfirst into the Rachenahalli Lake revival initiative.
She was appointed to oversee the revival initiative. She began by involving nearby schools and colleges to conduct awareness campaigns among residents. Initially, she also had to spend some time on weekends to try and remove the weeds, clear the parthenium, and pick up the trash all by herself.
Gradually, people saw that she was there regularly, and those passing by began to join her. She made a small group near the lake who helped her regularly.
Meanwhile, Dr. Shobha got in touch with authorities at the BBMP thanks to her position at the MGIRED, a State government-backed institution. She was advised to form a citizens’ group to be taken seriously. And voila! In early 2016, eight members came together to form the Jalmitra Trust.
“The MGIRED had adopted a 100-metre stretch of the lake. Alongside staff and students, we maintained this stretch. For another 100 metre stretch, we had invited nearby schools and colleges to maintain it. Working with us, the students of Legacy School, Bengaluru, adopted this 100 metre stretch.” she informs.
She quit her job at the MGIRED to dedicate herself full time to the revival initiative.
Jalmitra also reached out to the then local MLA, who helped them push the BDA and BBMP to initiate some unfinished work.
Jalmitra also conducted a series of lake awareness initiatives in local neighborhoods, educating people on why they need to preserve the lake for groundwater recharge and urban flood management, besides running a lot of planting and cleaning drives in and around the lake. The Trust has taken care of the sewage in-flow problem on the northern side of the lake, and now the focus is on the southern side.
Owing to the Rachenahalli lake revival, Dr. Shobha is now called on to mentor and guide other citizen groups on how to replicate it.
Source: The Better India