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Two youths quit their jobs to restore Bengaluru’s lakes

Steni Simon /Bengaluru/ June 3

A few decades ago, it was unimaginable to even think Bengaluru- ‘the city of lakes’ would ever run out of groundwater. However, over the years, in the name of development, the lakes in the city have been dying a slow death due to neglect, encroachment coupled with other reasons. City-based conservationists Gurunandan Rao and Harsha Tej have embarked on a unique mission to revive Bengaluru’s lakes to their past glory.

For many years now, Gurunandan and Harsha have been working towards creating a sustainable environment through activities such as lake restoration and tree planting under their NGO, HandsOnCSR. It was however the desire to do something impactful for the society that brought these two like-minded people together. “After completing my studies in 2015, I joined the IT sector. But soon, I realised that it was not what I wanted. I quit my job and started working in wildlife conservation and working with the environment. During this, I met Gurunandan who was also working on similar projects and we thought of collaborating,’ shares 28-year-old Harsha, co-director at HandsOnCSR.

The duo initially started with tree planting and later on took up lake restoration projects. Harsha says, “According to the recent census of waterbodies by the Union Jal Shakti Ministry, Karnataka has lost about 13,489 water bodies in just a year between 2021 and 2022 due to encroachment, drying up and other factors. The loss of water bodies is a growing concern and we saw that the lakes of Bengaluru were either turning into dumpyards or drying up. So, we thought of working towards its rejuvenation.”

The lake being restored by the two

It was about three years ago that the youngsters revived the Shanbhoganahalli lake, spread across one acre. “When we visited the area, the lake was filled with silt and hyacinths thereby losing its water holding capacity. It took us around 2 weeks to dewater the entire lake and remove the silt and hyacinths. The inlets and outlets of the lake were cleared and earthen bunds were set up. This increased the water holding capacity and the lake was then restored to its normal state,” shares Gurunandan, who is the founder of HandsOnCSR.

Along with Shanbhoganahalli, they rejuvenated lakes such as Hunsmaranahalli, Shikaripalya and Chikatimmasandra which were in an equally bad state. Currently, they are working on rejuvenating the Hegondanahallli lake on Sarjapur road.

“Hegondanahalli lake is spread across 14 acres and we are increasing the water holding capacity of the lake. Over the years, a lot of silt accumulated and the lake was drying up every summer turning into a playground. Now, we are making sure that the water stays throughout the year and the communities nearby get water as the groundwater recharge is restored. We are also ensuring that the lake is restored for another hundred years. Silt traps have been set up and trees are going to be planted. The work is already nearing completion,” said Harsha.

Even after completing the rejuvenation process, regular follow-ups are done by them to ensure the lakes are kept clean and intact. Gurunandan and Harsha are on a mission to restore more than 100 lakes in the next 5 years.

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