Karnataka’s capital, Bengaluru, with its numerous hills and valleys, is a beauty. More than that, its geography allows for ideal containment of rainwater forming lakes.
The natural and regular way of lake formation is due to the melting of glaciers from the Ice Age roughly 18,000 years back. However, in Bengaluru’s case, its chieftain-founder Kempe Gowda I built them with careful precision.
In the book “Askew: A Short Biography of Bangalore” (2016), the author states that it was the chieftain’s mother who urged him to “Keregalam kattu, marangalam nedu” which can be translated to “Build lakes, plant trees.”
Even so, lakes cannot be built anywhere. There are many ingredients that need to be kept in mind – drainage, inlet, slope, wetland foundation and ecosystem.
All these factors were taken into account when Kempe Gowda I decided to build lakes in his dream city.
As mentioned earlier, the geographical terrain of Bengaluru favors and ensures survival of lakes. Also, the uniqueness of the city’s lakes is that all of them are all linked to a common parent lake basin which implies that every lake in the city is connected to one another.
A Common Parent Lake Basin! What does this tell us?
The interlinking of the lakes is a double edged sword. While it can ensure that rainwater can flow through the connecting channels from one full lake to the other, it can also spell doom in another sense.
That is, polluting one lake can adversely affect many others too in the process. The sewage and chemical elements are bound to seep through the soil and into the ground water purifiers that extends to other lakes also.
Even after considering these hazards and realizing the need to leave them alone without exploiting the natural water resources, if we fail to maintain the Flora and Fauna in and around the lake, it will be futile and even speedup the lake’s death.
Specifically, the flora, both above (trees) and under water (algae and other plant forms), play a major role in the survival of the lake ecosystem. They have their positions in the ecological food cycle in the sense that they provide the nourishment to the higher order in the food chain.
They also enable chemical processes such as production of biomass from breaking down the organic matter, fruits and such, gotten from the nearby trees.
But is this to say that lakes need to be taken care of by us?
If they were left alone without the greedy hand of Man disrupting its ecosystem to the point of sheer exploitation, they are more than self-sufficient.
The Lotus, a thick friend to the ponds and lakes, is an effective water pollution controller. Pretty in pink, the flower is a hard worker, toiling towards the good health of the lakes. Studies conducted in Israel and Canberra states that the Lotus can absorb heavy metals like Lead, Mercury and Cadmium to a considerable extent.
Another self-cleaning characteristic of the lakes is that it can take in human – urine and fecal matter – and food waste. These get deposited on the bottom of the lake thereby forming an organic layer which will serve as nutrient for the soil, the underwater plants and also the algae. They will in turn feed the next step in the natural prey-predator cycle, the fishes and other aquatic life.
But the onslaught of human encroachment has reached such alarming levels that it is impossible to expect the lakes to clean themselves. At the rate at which we are destroying our wetland ecosystem, we need to take stringent steps to overcome the emerging crises related to this issue.
It is never too late to act.
Follow us on our journey with the Wake the Lake project as we strive to revive the dying lakes of Bengaluru and its ecosystems.
We gratefully acknowledge the various inputs and insights provided by Dr. Yellappa Reddy towards the formulation of this article. He is a former Indian Forest Service officer and a Trustee at Bengaluru Environment Trust.