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Reviving lost waterways: A step towards sustainable cities

Global Goals & Global Society
Reviving lost waterways: A step towards sustainable cities

In a remarkable transformation, Bengaluru, the "City of Lakes," is reclaiming its watery heritage through a series of lake restoration projects. Over the past six years, citizen-led initiatives, backed by government support, have revived numerous lakes in the city, bringing back life and vitality to these once-polluted water bodies. With a vision of creating a sustainable and resilient urban environment, these efforts are not only addressing the pressing issues of flooding and water scarcity but also nurturing a sense of community engagement and environmental stewardship.

The restoration of Kyalasanahalli Lake, which overflowed for the first time in 23 years, serves as a powerful testament to the success of these initiatives. Just a few years ago, the lake was nothing more than a wasteland of sewage, industrial waste, and water hyacinth. However, the combined efforts of local volunteers, government support, and the dedication of individuals like Anand Malligavad, a mechanical engineer, have brought about a remarkable turnaround. Malligavad, along with his team, has successfully revived 30 lakes in Bengaluru district alone, demonstrating the potential for positive change.

Bengaluru's deteriorating lake system, once boasting around 1,500 interconnected bodies of water, fell victim to rapid urbanization and insufficient sewage and water infrastructure. The consequences were twofold, with frequent flooding and severe water scarcity plaguing the city. However, these restoration projects are not only reversing the damage caused but also offering valuable lessons for sustainable urban development.

Malligavad's approach to lake revival combines meticulous planning and community involvement. Recognizing the diverse ecological contexts of each lake, his team conducts in-depth studies, analyzing factors such as geology, groundwater levels, and pollution extent. The restoration process involves dredging and cleaning the lakebed, reinforcing banks with native grasses, and planting indigenous trees and plants. Innovative techniques like the Miyawaki method are employed to enhance biodiversity and improve water-holding capacity. Furthermore, the development of wetland areas helps filter pollutants, and the inclusion of water-purifying lotuses and lilies aids in natural cleansing.

These lake restoration projects extend beyond mere rejuvenation; they emphasize ongoing maintenance and protection. Malligavad and his team have adopted a comprehensive approach, ensuring the long-term sustainability of the revived lakes. Through regular updates on social media platforms, they showcase the progress made, garnering public support and attracting funding for future projects. The visible impact of their efforts, coupled with the projects' completion within a short timeframe, has resonated with the public, creating a sense of pride and ownership.

The restoration of Bengaluru's lakes has had a profound impact on both the environment and the community. Hydrologists and experts affirm the positive influence on the city's water table, with a 10 percent increase in water recharge observed in Karnataka. Beyond environmental benefits, the revival of these lakes has transformed public life. Residents now enjoy the rare luxury of green and blue spaces, fostering a renewed connection with nature. Cultural events, concerts, and markets held on the banks of these revived lakes have revitalized the city's cultural fabric and instilled a sense of environmental responsibility.

While the achievements of these restoration projects are commendable, challenges remain. Addressing the issue of sewage flowing into the lakes through storm drains is crucial to ensure the long-term success of these initiatives. Additionally, sustainable management of groundwater resources and systematic downstream rejuvenation are essential for maintaining the interconnected lake system and safeguarding future water availability.

The revitalization of Bengaluru's lakes aligns closely with the vision of a global society striving for sustainability and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By combining community participation, environmental conservation, and responsible governance, these projects exemplify the power of civil society to drive positive change. The restoration of water bodies not only contributes to SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) but also supports SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) by fostering resilience and creating inclusive, livable urban spaces.

As Bengaluru continues on its path to becoming a truly sustainable city, the success of these lake restoration projects provides hope and inspiration. The commitment shown by individuals like Anand Malligavad and the collaboration between civil society, government, and the public serve as a model for other cities worldwide. With determination and collective action, it is possible to heal our damaged ecosystems, protect our natural resources, and create a brighter future for all.

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