Sri H Gopalakrishna is a long time resident of BEL Layout, Vidyaranyapura (earlier called Narasipura). This story, by him, in its original form, appeared on the Facebook page Vidyaranyapura – The Original. It is been edited and reproduced with his permission.
This is a continuation of Part 1 – Heaven, that can be read here.
We used to get piped water through bore wells which had links to overhead tanks around the area. The responsibility of the water supply and collection of water charges was handled by BEL Residents Welfare Association (BELRWA). A while after the cleaning plant became operational, its maintenance was shifted from the BEL House Building Society (BELHBS) that had formed the layout, to BELRWA. BELRWA started collecting the plant maintenance charges from the residents. As time went by, several authorised and unauthorised layouts in and around Vidyaranyapura started getting connected to the cleaning plant. This amidst opposition by both BELHBS and BELRWA. It seems unauthorised connections were made in the midnights! Discussions were held with neighbourhood and government representatives but the unauthorised connections continued.
The plant could not take the over load, resulting in obnoxious and bad smells in the entire lake area. As the power supply was erratic, the aerators would go dead and they would not be repaired for months. Even today relics of some aerators can be seen at the right side of the lake. Human excreta could be seen floating on the water surface. Those who went boating had to ensure that they had a thorough bath when they returned home! Ultimately, boating stopped.
Godambi plants were earnestly planted in the area because some expert had said that they would absorb the bad smells. Bushes that served as cattle fodder, and weeds also sprung up. The smell was so bad that even a decomposing body in the thick bushes went undetected for several days.
All our open wells got contaminated. The water from the wells could not be used for drinking or any other purpose for that matter. Almost all the wells in the area were abandoned, people started filling them up.
Every day one group of residents would go to the President of BELHBS to lodge a complaint, but there would be no permanent redressal action. This went on for some time and the agony of the Fifth and Second Block residents was beyond words. The residents who lived away from the lake area did not face the continuous suffering that those who lived close to the lake did. For 24 hours the air would be foul smelling. During the evening hours, crores of mosquitoes of different varieties and sizes thronged the homes. We could not invite anyone to our homes. A sort of inferiority complex started developing among the residents of these blocks. We were afraid that all of us would get Elephantiasis, Hydroceles and other such deadly illnesses caused by mosquitoes and water contamination. Some citizens had already fallen ill with lung and intestinal infections. One of our Doctors at BEL Hospital studied the problem and presented a paper at one of the national medical seminars.
This torture went on for some ten years. The residents had a real experience of what could be HELL! By this time the Byatarayanapura Municipal Council representative from Vidyaranyapura took some initiative to combat the issue, but he too had no tangible success. At every meeting of the Welfare Association and House Building Society this issue was the major point of discussion. The matter was taken to the Pollution Control Board by residents of Fifth and Second Blocks.
In a bid to clean up the area, tons and tons of solid excreta was dug out from the cleaning plant area, and laid by the main road to dry out. The entire surrounding air carried the unbearable smell for days.
By this time, pressure had been built on all the concerned authorities. Some progress was made. The stagnant polluted water was drained out through an opening to the adjoining layout. The problem shifted to the neighbouring layout! After this, the lake land dried up, but the dried land smelt of human excreta and the area continued to be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Though the smell was reduced, living conditions continued to be horrible. Several residents, in individual capacities, highlighted the problems through the media and we were able to get the attention of the authorities. The BELRWA used all its resources including political contacts to get the cleaning plant shifted.
With the restructuring of Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BMP) in 2007, Vidyaranyapura soon became a part of BBMP. By this time Cauvery Water supply was given to a few blocks of BELHBS. All the bore wells, storage overhead tanks, underground supply pipes and the cleaning plant area – anything connected with water was handed over to BWSSB. All the spots bearing the “BWSSB” Board in our layout actually belonged to our House Building Society and in turn to us!
In the meantime garbage collection had started in the area and there were a few centres where the garbage used to be collected for loading. One such centre was in front of the Ganesha Temple in Fourth Block. People used to come on their bikes, bringing garbage in polythene bags, throw them without proper aim, and ride off. The result was that garbage bags were everywhere, including the marshy lake! In 2010-11 an individual with influence at government level came to reside at Fifth Block. He met the residents and persuaded them to ask for the garbage collection centre to be removed. We pooled in money, removed the garbage collection centre (it went to Second Block!) with the help of the Health Officer and some saplings were planted on either side of the road. All this while, the ‘open toilet’ facility continued because nobody had toilets for construction workers.
In 2010, Smt Nandini Srinivas and Sri Pillappa were elected as corporators from Vidyaranyapura. As both of them were aware of the problem of the lake, they took the initiative to find some way to get it restored. They were ably supported by the area MLA, Sri Krishna Byregowda. The then Commissioner Sri Siddaiah was met we were assured that the needful would be done.
Within a few weeks one JCB entered the lake area. The lone driver worked for about two months, removing debris and weeds. The fencing was done around the lake, a jogging path was created, footpath stones were laid, paintings were made on them, more trees and bamboo saplings were planted.
A lot of work has been put in, to get the lake into its present shape. Residents from the area, including seniors and children devote a lot of their time. Our corporators visit the area almost every day, supervise the work, help in watering, and give whatever support is required.
Today, we see a large number of people of all ages, actively moving around the lake periphery every morning and evening. The open toilet facility exists no more. We see greenery all around us. The air we breathe is fresh. We hear the beautiful singing of the birds again. In the summers, the lake dries out, but it takes just a couple of rains to see water in the lake again.
Slowly, Narasipura Lake is becoming Heaven again!
– By H Gopalakrishna
Sights of Narasipura Lake