Water & Sanitation

Sustainable Development in India

The restoration of the Bangalore Lakes can catalyze an overall sustainable transformation of the various districts of Bangalore—as well as reclaim an important historical connection for the city.

Bangalore is a brand the world identifies India with. It is also the single biggest reason why India has become such a hot investment destination.—Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

Being the world’s most populous country—as projected for 2025—affords India the political, social, and economic capital to influence the entire globe. With half the population under the age of 25, the success of India will be defined by access to education, preservation of its cultures, the health of its children, the quality of its communities, the mobility of its people, and the sustainability of its resources.

In India, population growth is a major issue that is putting a major strain on the country’s resources and its cities. The rapid urban expansion of Indian cities is happening at a speed quite unlike anything the world has seen before. Yet the potential for Indian cities is tremendous. India has become a powerful engine driving and shaping the world’s economies, culture, technology, and development. The rapid, chaotic growth of Indian cities, however, creates key challenges that will need to be tackled forcefully to ensure that promise.

Bangalore, formerly known as the Garden City, is a metropolis of 5.4 million people that was once dotted with hundreds of lakes, which created a livable city providing food and water for residents, opportunities for livelihoods, habitat for rare and migratory birds, and a rich cultural heritage. The lakes and parks, as well as the mild climate, created a city that many perceived as one of the best places to live and work in the country. With the city’s rapid development, and a lack of public action to protect the natural resources of the city, today less than a third of the lakes remain. There is pollution from human and industrial waste and land filling has occurred through illegal dumping and development.

The lake’s polluted condition has created a health and humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands of slum dwellers depend on the city’s surface waters for potable water and their livelihood. Each day these residents use the polluted water from the lakes for their daily needs. This has created an economic and cultural crisis, because the loss of the lakes represents the loss of economic opportunity and the very characteristics that traditionally have brought economic growth to the city.


Residents along the edge of the polluted Banthur Lake, Bangalore.

Leaving the restoration of the lakes to conventional government methods will continue to mean ongoing degradation in the short and medium term, as there is no clear regulatory body to oversee the transformation. The constituency is diverse and the multitude of regulatory jurisdictions that have some sort of leverage makes restoring the Lakes of Bangalore a complex challenge involving many aspects of the city’s infrastructure, ecological, and social systems. It’s exactly these challenging interconnections that the Sherwood Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to improving water and energy infrastructures, and its local and international partners are prepared to solve.

The solution includes efforts in a variety of areas: from garnering local political support and creating a Lake Development Advisory Commission, to working to affect policy in Bangalore and fundraising for early phase restoration efforts.

The first phase of the restoration will:
• Analyze existing conditions and fully understand the complex web of interconnections and the local existing conditions that have polluted the lakes so badly.
• Create a Blueprint for a Blue Bangalore that will blend Sherwood Institute’s and its partner’s experience in innovative, regenerative design and help articulate a new vision for the city’s urban and economic development, based on a sound use of its natural resources.
• Provide a comprehensive road map for that future.
• Finally, this blueprint will be initiated with the execution of three Lake Restoration Pilot Projects that will clean the water, restore ecology, invigorate local communities, and provide much needed accessible public open space.

The goal is to reintegrate the lakes as major public open space amenities and natural resources for the city, which can provide the seeds toward an overall sustainable transformation of the various districts of Bangalore—and importantly, reclaim the historical connection to the many lakes that dot the Bangalore landscape.

This campaign not only attempts to recapture the heritage of the Garden City, it also serves as an international model to support regional ecosystems for sustainable water infrastructure design and to demonstrate how green infrastructure can restore the balance to devastated urban ecological systems. The overarching goal is to create innovative sustainable urban forms that enhance city living with walkable, transit-oriented districts humanized by their natural amenities.

We believe that the vision for the lake restoration is a key step toward a major quality of urban life enhancement in Bangalore, one that will enhance Bangalore on the global marketplace as a unique creative place in the technology sector but also as a great place to live to attract global talents and businesses that are critical to the overall success of the city and the country.

Water is a resource that is critical to the success of the country. The lakes in Bangalore are a major element that defines the city and add to the overall quality of life in Bangalore. Hopefully, this initiative can provide a way forward for similar initiatives elsewhere in the country.

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  • BY M V Bhaskar

    ON December 16, 2012 03:40 AM

    We have an unique solution to deal with sewage pollution of lakes and this was invented in Bangalore.

    The Diatom Algae present in all lakes are caused to grow rapidly and these consume the nutrients in sewage, Diatoms in turn are consumed by fish, thus the nutrients go up the food chain.

    Our product is being used regularly in Madivala lake by the fishermen.

  • Dr Arbind Kumar Gupta's avatar

    BY Dr Arbind Kumar Gupta

    ON December 24, 2012 05:56 AM

    I would like to introduce myself representing a group in Bangalore who have come together for restoring many of the lakes in Bangalore. There are about 150 people representing 20+ individual lake teams working for the restoration of lake in their neighbourhood. Often these lae teams consist of few individuals, all committed and passionate but will little knowledge. The teams face innumarable challenges at each step, sone systemic and some because of poor governance. Most often each team has to go through the same learning curve for a period of few years before they create the n/w and acquire the skills to actually become effective. We have created a platform to bring these different groups together to create a platform for sharing of best practices and exchange of knowledge / ideas. We also got few of the people with extensive knowledgable and long experiance in lake restoration, to form a core group called Bangalore Kere Samiti (Bangalore lake committee in English). The objective is to use the combined knowledge and experience of BKS to guide and support individual lake teams. At the same time, BKS can partner with Govt as a representative of lake activists. This can enable setting / fine-tuning the right policy framework and streamlining of support services from various Govt agencies involved in the work.
    We look forward to work with you and seek your help in restoring lakes in Bangalore.

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