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Locals Breathe Life Into Dying Bengaluru Lake, Clear Idol Debris Themselves

Bengaluru’s Hulimavu lake was choked with idol debris and other non-biodegradable waste.

It is no secret that immersing idols in water causes debris to build-up, and increases the water pollution levels. It is little wonder then, that lake-facing properties in Bengaluru have worried residents, who dread festivals because lakes become the dumping ground for all the waste that is generated during the festivities.

Such was the case of the residents of Hulimavu, who had to deal with the after-effects of immersion, after the Ganesh Chaturthi festivities ended, in the Hulimavu lake near their homes.

What is ironic is that the lake is a non-designated area, dumping idols in it, is prohibited, reports the Bengaluru Mirror.

This year, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), and the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had set down a list of best practices for immersion, well before Ganesh Chaturthi. Pandal organisers had been instructed to keep idols from entering the water. There was also a ban on Plaster of Paris (PoP) idols, and the celebrations would have to end by September end.

The residents of Hulimavu were hopeful that this year the lake would be non-polluted, as the government had issued clear instructions that idols would have to be immersed in the Arekere Kalyani, which is located a few kms away from Hulimavu lake.

The residents of Hulimavu, Bengaluru, cleaned their neighbourhood lake with their own hands. Image Credit: HKT
The residents of Hulimavu, Bengaluru, cleaned their neighbourhood lake with their own hands. Image Credit: HKT

“This year we were initially happy because the Kalyani saw over 5000 immersions, and not a single idol reached Hulimavu lake! This was a brilliant alternative to stop the pollution occurring in the lake. There were barricades set up around the lake, and policemen and volunteers were keeping a strict vigil,” said a resident of Hulimavu to BM.

Well, that delight didn’t last. Cut to a few days after the festival, the residents were unable to walk on the streets without holding their breath, due to the heavy stench in the air.

This caught the attention of the Hulimavu Kere Tharanga (HKT), a community to clean up lakes. Mithan Subbiah, a resident of Hulimavu and a member of HKT, said that the whole neighbourhood stank, thanks to thermocol, plastic flowers, broken idols, and other non-biodegradable wet waste floating in the lake.

The residents of Hulimavu, Bengaluru, cleaned their neighbourhood lake without any help. Image Credit: HKT
The residents of Hulimavu, Bengaluru, cleaned their neighbourhood lake without any help. Image Credit: HKT

This is because even after the instructions given by the government, some miscreants had managed to sneak into the lake area, and performed an immersion in the Hulimavu lake, after a 21-day window.

That is when the members of HKT decided to take matters into their own hands. After holding a community meeting, they found support from volunteers and started walking into the lake, pulling out debris and other remains of the idols. It took a few weeks of cleaning to clean up the lake and get rid of all the idols and the waste.

Mithan praised the community, speaking of them as a group of people from different backgrounds, including fisherfolk and washermen who live nearby, who came together for this collaborative effort.


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Well, their efforts did pay off, and the lake has been finally cleaned up. Every week, the community still meets on Sunday to clean up the lake, setting a stellar example of taking things into your own hands instead of waiting for official help, that hardly ever arrives!

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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