Sromona Bhattacharyya Bhattacharyya
Hailing from Kolkata and now a resident of Bengaluru, Sromona is a multimedia journalist who has a knack for digging stories that truly deserve attention.
In the 1960’s, Bengaluru had over 280 lakes and tanks. Almost 60 years of encroachment, illegal construction, mining and abject neglect towards these natural resources, has left Bengaluru’s lakes in a miserable condition. Doddakere Lake located in greater Bengaluru’s Sarjapur area joins the list of many other lakes which are subjected to such neglect, pushing it into near extinction.
Residents of the area are fighting a similar battle like many others in the city – to save a lake from dying. On Tuesday, October 30, the residents along with citizen activities, who are spearheading the movement to save Doddakere lake, organised a protest march against the illegal sand mining which is going on in the lake region. The march was to make every resident aware of the importance of such water bodies.
Awareness March has started!!!
Posted by Save Lakes of Sarjapura on Monday, October 29, 2018
The fight to restore this lake is being taken up by citizen activists under the banner ‘Voices Of Sarjapur’. The Logical Indian spoke to Deepanjali, a member of Voices Of Sarjapur to understand the grave matter which puts the survival of the lake into question.
She explained that out of the 26 documented lakes in the Sarjapur area, the Doddakere lake is the largest covering 204 acres of land. While the lake had been subjected to neglect for a long time, over a decade ago, illegal mining of sand began in the area. This, today poses as the biggest threat to the lake. Issues related to garbage dumping, encroachment and sewage releasing into the lake are minor ones which can be resolved. While the locals of the Sarjapur village tried to bring the issue to the fore, they were continuously threatened and intimidated by local goons, she added.
On 14th October, members of Voices Of Sarjapur were formally invited by the villagers to help chalk out a plan of action to keep the lake alive. Talking about the extent of damage that the lake has already suffered over the years, she said, “The lake looks like a war zone where the sand mafia has dug as deep as 50 feet into the ground exposing black clay.”
Not only sand but the sand mafia, she alleged have also been extracting limestone and black clay from the region. Residents too complain that there have been continuous activities in the lake region during nighttime as well as the movement of trucks on the village roads. Moreover, she informed that the sand mafia had even installed CCTV cameras in the area to monitor the mining activities. The local police who are aware of the situation also seized two earthmovers on October 15 when citizens were staging a protest.
While the members of Voices Of Sarjapur have not received any threats over the last two weeks, local residents have. Reportedly, Sriramulu, former president of the Sarjapur Gram Panchayat had alleged that he had received phone calls from a local history-sheeter in the area threatening him to not interfere in the situation. However, Tuesday’s protest was a success informed Deepanjali as it went on without any disturbance, while the police kept a strict vigil.
Meanwhile, the citizen activists have been urging various stakeholders and government bodies to look into the matter. They have reached out to at least 15 different government department concerned with the matter, which failed to produce any concrete results yet. Although officials belonging a few of these departments were present in the march, it did not yield any result. Moreover, the local village panchayat members have also been reluctant and have been continually threatened by the sand mafia. The lake, she informs is a government property which belongs to the Minor Irrigation Department, who when approached also failed to help or give a conclusive answer. The Logical Indian tried to contact a Minor Irrigation Department official who was unavailable at the time.
However, she informed that the police have been helpful and that they have informed that they are willing to book cases against those who are caught conducting illegal mining in the lake region.
The pictures, updates and all information related to the ongoing fight is being uploaded by the activists on their Facebook page titled ‘Save Lakes of Sarjapura.’ Pictures of the lake posed online look nothing short of a mining site and not only has the waterbody been affected, but the sand mafia has also befallen trees which were planted by the Forest Department, making the whole area look barren and dead.
Environmentalist Dr Yellappa Reddy told The Logical Indian explained the ill effects of sand mining on the environment as a whole. He said that the lake is a living entity and unlike infrastructure, it is impossible to create new lakes everywhere – something that both people and the government should understand.
He blamed the government machinery for failing to keep the lake protected. Further explaining, he said that sand plays a very important role infiltration and such rampant digging will not only kill the lake but the flora and fauna which comes with it. Without prompt rejuvenation work, the lake will lose whatever is left of its characteristic. Moreover, sand mining has also blocked the rajakaluves or the stormwater drains, leaving the water to dry out.
Illegal sand mining is nothing but a result of the rapid growth of urbanisation i.e building infrastructure. Doddakere lake is one of the many lakes in Bengaluru that need urgent attention by the government. While the protestors have no plans of stopping their fight, The Logical Indian urges the concerned authorities to look into the matter and resolve the issue at the earliest.
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