May 9th, 2017
Image Courtsey: Varun Kalia
When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, the Earth appeared blue to him because more than two-thirds of the surface our planet is water.
But this limited resource, which sustains life on Earth, is fast depleting.
For its conservation, the government of India formulated various initiatives, including Swacch Bharat, Smart City and Smart Cantonments.
The Logical Indian spoke to the CEO of Cantonment Board Ambala (CBA), Mr Varun Kalia who provided us with details of a recent conservation measure which transformed a dumping site into a lake.
CBA had seven water bodies which had dried up due to lack of efforts for preservation.
“On digging up the history of water bodies in the cantonment, we found a dumping site which used to be a pond. In the past, the water-body acted as a traditional way of harvesting rainwater and as an effective source of groundwater recharge. Since no attention was paid to it, over a period of time, the pond and the catchment area were filled with mud and the entire expanse was turned into a swampy levelled land. Subsequently, people started throwing garbage in it, and the land was turned into a dumping ground,” said Mr Kalia.
The CBA took up the task to rejuvenate the pond under the Smart Cantonment Project. The plan included removal of garbage dump, de-silting, redesigning drains in the catchment area and interlinking them with the water body, and provisioning of outlet drain so as to gush out excess water and prevent overflow.
Three phases of the rejuvenation project
The entire initiative took place in three phases over the course of eight months.
Phase 1 included clearing the land of all garbage, digging the pond, and capturing the monsoon water.
“We studied the history of the land and the catchment area. We also found the area that was used to drain the water. Then we cleared the land of all garbage and dug out a water body bigger than the older pond,” said Mr Kalia.
Phase 2 focused on converting the 3.5-acre water body into a perennial source of water as the rainwater collected would eventually either evaporate or percolate into the ground. This was achieved by tapping the water from a drain which earlier crossed the cantonment area. To purify the water body and maintain appropriate BoD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) level, fishes were introduced to provide natural scavenging.
“Luckily, the nearest catchment area had an agricultural land so we found a lot of bore wells and tube wells runoff water that could be used. We tapped this water, and clean household water from kitchens, constructed drains and made an inlet to the pond,” said Mr Kalia.
In phase 3, horticulture was developed in the area to convert it into a lake. The site has now transformed into a beautiful public recreational place with walking tracks and landscaping alongside the water body. Outdoor gyms and bio-toilets have also been placed for the use of general public.
Future projects of CBA
The rejuvenation project involved an investment of Rs 50 lakh and was completed with the help of locals.
“CBA used its own manpower and expertise with no help taken from outside consultants,” revealed Mr Kalia. “This was a big achievement because an ingenious solution was provided using local knowledge,” he added.
In its inauguration on 5 May 2017, the lake was named Cantonment Board Ambala Lake, or CBA lake.
When asked about future plans, Mr Kalia said that the board has two more projects lined up. First, integration of an 8-acre old water body, which is now dry, to the CBA lake. This will help collect and utilise excess water of the lake. Second, boating will be started in the CBA lake to generate revenue. The board also plans to put advertisement boards to add to the income.
The CBA lake, including its facilities, are not ticketed. “The lake is adjacent to the civil area of the cantonment which is historically a congested area. We wanted to give the people an asset which they would enjoy,” said Mr Kalia.
The Logical Indian commends the efforts of the Ambala Cantonment Board to clean a dumping site and transform it into a lake. Such steps reassure the general public that the government is concerned about the environment and is taking steps for its conservation.