Community Managed Lakes to Make Sustainability a Reality

Madhuri Subbarao 

World over many decentralized systems of lake management by communities can be observed.  Water bodies in the community enhance its beauty with pristine and healthy lakes making life around the community green, fun, sustainable and scenic.

In India simple solutions can change the eco-system of the lake. Every city is endowed with hundreds of lakes. When the government finds it a challenge to maintain these water bodies, by default the RWAs must hold hands with the Government to manage lakes around them.

A complex interdependence has evolved among the organisms in lake life. If one part of the ecosystem is disturbed, it affects other parts. Destruction through improper governance, non- implementation of environmental policy and legislation, haphazard urbanization paving the way for roads, housing development, drainage projects and garbage and debris dumping on the one hand, and occurrences like forest fires, eutrophication, chemical, biological, microbial, physical contaminations leading to toxins and phenomena like sedimentation, soil erosion, runoffs, and changes in the watershed can alter the delicate balance of the lake ecosystem. In time this leads to the water body to wither away and eventually make it unsustainable.

Here are some simple ways for commoners like us to manage a lake:

Adopt a lake around your community. It is not very expensive for the communities to maintain a lake. With a little effort for fundraising and good and regular connections with the lake custodians (Government), it’s very easy to take the onus and restore this public property to its glory. Protecting the lake from further deterioration is the responsibility of the Government and the local community. Communities, being a watchdog to these water bodies are of utmost priority to save our country from a water crisis. Encouraging of fisheries, livestock and cattle rearing using the fodder from the lake and all other income-generating activities may be prioritized.

Lake festivals will bring in more footfalls and fun to celebrate lakes. Filling the lake with treated water will be the beginning of life in the lake. Clearing the garbage from all inlets and cleaning the shore at frequent intervals is a must. Clearing the storm water drains for free flow into the lakes is mandatory. Planting more greenery will enhance the biodiversity of the lake. These are some simple beginner’s solutions for the communities to adopt and manage their own lakes.

Friends of Lakes (FOL), is an informal, unregistered group of friends who have joined hands voluntarily to save, protect and rejuvenate lakes. FOL was started in the year 1989 in Bangalore by kids to just play around the then pristine lake. The group remained informal and started work on Bangalore lakes by just cleaning the lake premises and community engagements. Now the lake groups have multiplied and have spread across the country and FOL is currently the World’s largest Lake Network.

The success was emulated in other areas too and within a few years, FOL spread to 50 lakes within the Bengaluru Urban City limit area. The experimentation through serious volunteerism with a focused agenda gave an edge to FOL to be accepted as a successful model for saving, protecting, and rejuvenating Urban Lakes catapulting it into a movement.

Many scientists, experts, researchers, bureaucrats and media personnel joined hands with FOL to make it technically strong and to resolve the challenges facing urban lakes thus becoming the voice of the vigilant community and Government Agencies. The industries too saw the importance of lakes and invited FOL to take the lead for the Karnataka State Water Network-KSWN, an initiative for water sustainability by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).

The FOL model has been appreciated world over and it is expanding to other states in India with the vision to sustain lakes and biodiversity thereby leading to water conservation. This mammoth-sized project is the reason for us to ask for support for the industries, experts and Government entities.

We found the need to map all lakes in the country and tag them to record the history of the lake through photos, drawings and survey maps, its topography, DPRs, tenders, biodiversity (Flora & Fauna), and an inventory of the different nature its environs. We also document the research done and the lake/community groups associated with the lakes.

Climate change is real and can affect human activity. Let us wake up before it’s too late.

The ecological, social and economic benefits of a well-managed lake can span generations. And a commitment to stewardship of our water resources makes us responsible for protecting and preserving our lakes-not only for ourselves but for the next generation as well.

Several researches establish that India, by just reviving lakes, can address the water issues and provide potable water to its communities. To make “sustainability a reality” Governments have a large role to play. But communities and industries must part take and indulge in nurturing lakes for a Greener, Cleaner and Healthier living.

Hoping to hear back from you on the way forward and to help us achieve and make this dream a reality and to make "Every Drop of Water Matters". 

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