In Pictures: The fascinating history of Jakkur Lake
By Lavanya Srinivasan | Published: June 09 2011
City based artist documents the metamorphosing history of the Jakkur lake through photographic images, video-interviews, archiving and mapping from facts obtained from locals and collecting oral-recording of anecdotes of the local dwellers.
‘Focusing the urban rural margins – Jakkur Lake Photos: Surekha
Jakkur Lake is one of the very few lakes existing towards the North-Eastern outskirts of Bangalore, about 15 kms from Bangalore city center. It is more than two hundred years old and is a lake densely connected with the history of Bangalore, for, it is closer to Yelahanka, the actual place from where the king Kempegowda–the founder of Bangalore–hails from. Lake Tales, a visual art exhibition about Jakkur Lake by City based artist ars.
“From the past three years, I have been documenting the rebirth of Jakkur Lake. My project intends to decipher this lake’s metamorphoses from being a natural and accessible one into becoming part of an urban-project. The lifestyle of the people around it has shifted from being a farming community to something uncertain, after the farming land around this lake was acquired for the purpose of urban and residential developments.” explains Surekha.
The lake is currently a site of peculiar internal Diaspora, wherein the change in it has made the settlement and people around it undergo an ecological, professional and hence a cultural and emotional displacement, while still very much retaining the sense of belonging there, due to the presence of the lake though in a modified version. “The Bangalore Development Authorities speak a language of development of the lake, preserving it from pollution, increasing the storage capacity, saving the land from real estate encroachers; and also preparing it for an articulated public utility. To fulfill these requirements, walking pathways, islands for migratory birds and boat-jetty and a separate idol immersion tank (Kalyani) have been constructed.” she says.
The lake is historic, and was once an abode for birds. Talking about what inspired her to take on this project, Surekha says, “At one point of time observing birds was perhaps the most engaging aspect that made me thoroughly document the birds in relation to this lake. This lake is a paradise for Birds. I have documented the routine of the birds and their activities around the lake. Thousands of Coots, Herons, and Cormorants are the common birds you can find in the lake. The most heartening aspect of the lake yet is the migratory birds that seasonally come to this lake in October and take off in April to European countries. The migratory and regional birds co-exist here. Some of the birds travel upto 8,000 kms at one stretch to arrive at Jakkur Lake.”
Surekha’s blog aims to bring in a negotiate appropriation between the artistic preoccupation and the aesthetic application involved around and within the process of mapping the historicity of this lake. “This blog brings in others of similar concern from within and beyond art community. Some of the interviews and reactions already put up is testimony to this. It is an attempt to re-discover my own surrounding in a sensible way, beyond beautification and consumerism. The project has already enabled me to trod paths which I had never intended to or could not do till now, by meeting people with ground reality, and speaking about issues with those who really matter. The blog is cross-connected to those who see less artificiality in the objects and nature which we consume on regular basis. My presentation is only a small interlude in this really long project.” she confides.Apart from this Surekha will be curating a show in which five young artists, who have graduated recently from the university, will be showing their work in relation to this theme. Each one has been involved in his/her own way in addressing environmental issues in relation to the lake.
Bar 1 – Jakkur `Lake Tales’
I am standing in the heart of the crowded city and I can hear bird call. If I am very quiet, I can also hear the wind blow. The wind is something I don’t get to hear often. It’s beautiful. Soothing. Near me is a lily pond with rainbow coloured fish darting busily to and fro. The water is crystal clear and I can see right down to the bed with aquatic plants, stones , pebbles and sculptural driftwood creating a dreamy waterscape that could be the perfect home for a mermaid. I wouldn’t mind living here myself actually. Which one of us wouldn’t want to live near a lake ? But I am not near a lake. I am at Bar 1, an artist residency -studio space on Mission Road, watching an interactive documentation of the historical Jakkur Lake – `Lake Tales.’
A watercolour in the making.Image courtesy : Surekha
The question of lakes, habitats, livelihoods and survival is one that artist Surekha has been addressing for over three years in her project `Focusing on the Urban Rural Margins – Jakkur Lake ‘ which explores urbanisation, the effect it has on waterbodies ( Jakkur Lake in particular ) and the intricate relationship that lakes have with human beings and all connected to it. This documentation is relevant because lakes, like cities have a history, an ecosystem, local and migrant populations and ways of being.
The work is spread all around Bar 1, and the soundscape I was listening to is installed in a bathroom where I can also see a video of lake ecosystems on a TV. The dreamy waterscape is set in a bathtub. The irony of squeezing the free expanse of nature into these restricted spaces is not lost on me. The entire work is interactive, with a special room being set aside for screening Surekha’s film on the lake, as well as a series of mini-laptops arranged skilfully in a niche with headphones so you can watch more lake footage.
There’s a lake in my bathroom !
Jakkur Lake has special significance for Surekha not only because it is near Yelahanka, where Vijayanagar Chieftain (Palegar) Kempegowda I ( 1531-1569 ) established his Yelahanka dynasty with each successor contributing in his own way to the planning and beautification of Bangalore, but also because it is the birthplace of her husband, Anil Kumar a senior faculty member at Chitrakala Parishath. Together, they are deeply concerned about the lake and its survival. So when the BDA announced their plans to de-silt, increase storage capacity and restore the lake to its pristine condition, Surekha decided to document the lake and its transformations.
Chaitra records her thoughts and experiences with snakes
This documentation includes the farmers who lost their land around the lake to development and faced an uncertain future, those who fish in the lake for their livelihood, the birds ( both local and migratory such as egrets, herons, cranes and cormorants), fish ( who were dying due to sewage pollution from the neighbouring apartment buildings) and residents of the area. Her record of the metamorphosis of the lake’s history is done through photographic images, video-interviews, recordings of oral anecdotes from local dwellers, archiving and mapping facts obtained from the area as well as from environmentalists and ecologists.
The Installations that are aquariums, or the other way around ?
Alongside her documentation, she also curated the work of emerging young artists who presented their interpretation of the ecological issues faced by the lake. Deepak R, who is a skilled aquarium hobbyist re-created the mini waterscapes at Bar 1 and Chaitra, who is trained in the rehabilitation of snakes, worked on snakes and their relationship with the alterations that these waterbodies are currently going through due to unplanned urbanisation. The ambient lake soundscapes by Deepak DL (who explored the concept of sound devices and their ability to simulate natural sounds in a built environment) worked their magic as I was transported into another world while the Frog Jumpers ( an aquatic plant) suddenly lunged to the surface in Deepak R’s beautiful aquariums.
Mini models of traditional farming equipment
But most of all, I thought Naganagowda Patil’s mini-models of traditional farming equipment were a touching tribute to the farming communities whose indigeneous practises and very livelihood is slowly being rendered obsolete in the face of rampant globalisation.
As I stood watching Kushal Kumar’s evocative film on the disappearance of our chirpy little Bangalore sparrows due to mobile telephony, set in his artistic comment, ( a large 5′ dia twig nest in which sat a gigantic mobile phone running footage of migratory birds whose nesting and migration patterns are closely connected to the lake ) miraculously, it began to rain.
Over steaming hot cups of lemon scented black tea and mini-macaroons set against ambient sounds of bird calls and falling raindrops, Surekha confessed that she was nervous when the LDA ( Lake Devpt. Authority) and BDA ( Bangalore Devpt. Authority) officials came to Bar 1`.” I wondered what they would say about my footage of all the fish lying dead due to pollution on the lake bank” she said. ” But they applauded me for this effort, asked for copies so they could screen it at other locations, and said, “this is a fact, why hide it?”.
Our lives are interwoven with nature.Image courtesy : Surekha
She also told me about the injured Kite that flew in to Bar 1 the previous day and got confused, so they put him in the massive twig nest installation till he regained equilibrium and flew away ! Talk about collaborations with the greatest artist of all – nature.
Today, as Bangalore battles issues like lake privatisation, pollution and encroachment, with waterbodies vanishing all around the city as we speak, this visual story, told lovingly and painstakingly at Bar 1 is a vivid reminder that our trees and waterbodies, seeds, birds and other species are as important as our architectural and cultural heritage. They are our natural heritage and our lifelines. I am sure the lake, garden and tank building forefather’s of our city would agree.
* ‘Lake Tales’ ( June 5th – 15th 2011) is supported by Khoj ( Negotiating Routes, Ecologies of the Byways. To follow the project, click here. Bar 1 is also available for artists to work and display.
Deepak R will be more than happy to create beautiful aquariums for you on order.
Lake Tales”, Surekha’s video about the suburban Jakkur lake gave the title to the exhibition subtitled ”Negotiating Routes Ecologies of the Byways II” (Bart1, June 2 to 15) curated by her with five young artists who have been helping her in the documentation of the changes occurring around the once lush but endangered and despoiled area which is now being revived by the authorities which brings a benign as well as uncomfortable symbiosis between the city and nature.
Nature in the city – uneasily
One should appreciate the authenticity of the concern here and the compulsion to engage directly with actual issues, especially when regarding rural life.
Hence, one understands the role of documenting those as the foundation of the work. Indeed, the sheer weight of the organic and human condition would perhaps ask for that, even for an activist-like approach.
Nevertheless, whatever means be used in an art work, those have to create a heightened experience-cum-sensation of things that would reach beyond data, and at this point problems arose.
The ideas behind the show and the specific pieces may have been wonderful including the wish to centre all the contributions round the video reflecting the raw status of the site, but they often remained at the literal plane or without sufficiently binding information and evocativeness. Perhaps one should wait for the comparatively new approach to evolve.
Whereas Surekha’s single print with her back seen atop a sorely fresh earth rampart with residues of greenery above was very expressive in a subdued manner, the main video did not quite connect-transpose the separate passages of fine, fairly classical, atmospheric scenery, also dead fish and the maybe deliberately pedestrian documentary images of fences and interviews with officials protecting the lake in ways that clash with traditional ones and with villagers who have lost their farmlands and familiar access to nature. While an ornithologist there spoke about the departure of migratory birds from the altered environment and about local ones gradually adjusting to it, Kushal Kumar’s installation with a video in an oversize nest housing a cell-phone rather gracefully dealt with Bangalore’s sparrows scared away by radiation yet returning to an uneasy coexistence with urbanity. That discomfort partly overcome by vitality underscored the other efforts. If Naganagowda Patil’s miniaturised rustic implements and animals referred effectively but too pleasantly to the irrelevance of old village routines, the joint installation trying to metamorphose the bathroom into an artificial landscape did not convince, as did not the naïve drawings and notes on snakes by Chaitra Puthran and the sophisticated aquarium of Deepak R which was just that despite the fancy floating plants, etc.
Whist there was a gap between the significance-bearing motifs and the lack of expressiveness there, one was truly taken by the sound work of Deepak D L Emerging from under a heap of rubbish, it layered and transformed real sounds of construction from the lake area and natural ones, like the wind, over the traffic noises from the street, to conjure a rough-sensitive rhythm in which one could intuit the shaping in the coexistence of the organic and urban worlds.
The fall and rise of a lake
An artist collaborates with a snake rescuer, a farmer-artiste, a new media artiste, a man who loves aquariums and a ‘sparrow man’ to document the transformation of Jakkur lake with an exhibition, Lake Tales, that opens today
Posted On Saturday, June 04, 2011 at 07:57:11 PM
From left: Deepak R, Kushal Kumar, Deepak D L, Surekha, Chaitra Puthran and Naganagouda Patil
With more than 200 years of history shaping the life of an entire community and eco-system, Jakkur Lake has been dubbed as a ‘birds’ paradise’. In fact, it can be called the North Star of Bangalore.
Located about 15 km from the city’s centre, it is closer to Yelahanka with a township, Jakkur, to its west and a village, Sampigehalli, to its east. Currently undergoing a transformation and restructuring from a natural lake to an artificial one, the water body is in the throes of a larger scheme of things called ‘City Beautification’ and ‘Lake Development Project’, conducted by Bengaluru Development Authority (BDA) as part of the urban development project of Bruhat Bengaluru.
Surekha, an artist, decided to record the happenings in and around the lake through photographs and videos after she heard of the Lake Development Authority (LDA) project. “I have pictures of the lake dating back more than 15 years (her husband is from Jakkur). But in 2009, when I heard of the project, I started interviewing the locals, BDA officials, contractors and, apart from taking pictures, shot extensive video footage of the lake,” says Surekha.
Surekha’s artistic documentation of the history of the lake is construed through photographic images, video interviews and archives, collecting oral recordings of anecdotes by local dwellers (farmers/activists), environmentalists, ornithologists as well as BDA contractors. Surekha’s fervent hope is that the lake regains its healthy environment along with its flora and fauna.
She says, “This project has been a fantastic learning process for me. In the beginning, I didn’t know much about it, but today I am deeply involved with its progress. Contractors or BDA officials call me when there is something interesting taking place. They alerted me when they had drained the water. I have walked on the lake bed. The feelings are too deep to express. I have seen the authorities taking painstaking steps to develop the lake properly by taking inputs from environmentalists and wildlife experts. I have seen dead fish recovered from the lake. I have seen birds going to other lakes nearby because this one was not ready. I now know how lakes are formed and how there is a chain formation of other lakes nearby. This project is not a commitment for a year or two, but for a lifetime. The lake and its impact on the community are too intense to be taken lightly. In fact, without a water body or a lake, there is no life in the vicinity.”
Surekha tied up with five young artistes who were not the ‘typical artistes but had an ecological connection’. The artists — a snake rescuer, a farmer-artiste, a new media artiste, an aquarium hobbyist and a ‘sparrow man’ — have given an interesting perspective to an urban bane.
Chaitra Puthran was once afraid of snakes, but is now called to rescue snakes. In fact, her complaint is that there are fewer calls now than before. “I just hope that people rescue snakes rather than kill them. Except cobras, there is no mercy shown to any other snakes, however harmless they are,” she says. The first snake that she rescued was a rat snake. Since then, she has done intense research on snakes. “Without knowledge of snakes you can’t handle a snake,” she says. “My contribution to the project will be to present the factors causing changes in the snake’s population with respect to the changing face of the lake. There will be a handwritten diary, drawings, illustrations and pictures of snakes. I will be glad to answer any queries about snakes during the course of the exhibition.”
NEW MEDIA ARTISTE
Deepak D L has worked on natural sounds in and around the lake. A keen interest in the environment led to him pairing up with Surekha for the project. He says, “I have collected sound footage from in and around the lake and manipulated it to make a new sound. I have archived the project in sound and made an audio library in a digital format of all sounds related to the project.”
In addition to the environment and birds, Deepak R is passionate about fishes and aquariums. A childhood passion for creating ecosystems for fish has led him to create micro-ecosystems with aquatic plants. The largest tank he has created measures 7’ X 4’ X 2’. According to him, after the lake is filled, the ecosystem will get better than before as ‘plenty of work and thought has gone into it’. “I am going to talk to the local authorities and research the types of local fish that can be released into the lake,” he says. He wishes that people won’t release species like the Jalebi fish, Catfish or the American Turtle Red Ear Slider into lakes as these upset the local ecosystem because they breed fast and consume a lot of food.
“I became involved with the project after Surekha told me about the dead fish during the dewatering process. My role is to recreate an ecosystem similar, but not identical to Jakkur lake’s. The tank that I have come up with, which is about 2’ X 2’ X 15”, has an island as well.”
LOVE FOR SPARROWS
Kushal Kumar has been working on the migratory tendencies of sparrows keeping the background of the lake in mind. He finds sparrows in his native Doddaballapur but very few in Bangalore, which has more wireless towers and pollution. “Along with these two factors, global warming has caused sparrows to migrate elsewhere. From about a hundred birds four years ago, the population has halved,” he says. For the lake project, he will display a gigantic 3’ X 4′ nest with a huge mobile phone that will have a monitor to play a seven-minute video on sparrows. “I have used the mobile phone as a symbol to show its impact on the birds,” he says.
FARMER-CUM-ARTISTENaganagouda Patil is not from Jakkur, which is why his land is intact. “I have seen the land around the lake. It is very fertile and good for cultivation,” he says. “In my childhood, I used a soft thermocol-like material sourced from the maize stem to make farm equipment similar to what my father and uncles used. We used to play with them. Today, traditional hand-made equipment are vanishing just like the land around the lake. For this project, I have created farm equipment that are slowly becoming obsolete using the same material that I used as a child.”The Lake – Past, Present and Future
PAST: Until recently, the lake was surrounded by a lush green belt. The livelihood of the villagers and the farming community were dependent on the lake. “A 90-year-old farmer told me how, in the olden days, a girl’s family would give their daughter in marriage to a boy only if his village had a lake,” says Surekha. Birds flocked to the lake. From October to April, migratory birds came from Australia and European countries. A thriving ecosystem made Jakkur lake a paradise for both birds and its watchers. The community around the lake used the water for domestic purposes and farming.
PRESENT: The announcement of the Akravathy Layout changed the lives of an entire community with sites being formed at the edge of the lake. Farmers protested at the poor compensation and took the government to court. With their farmland now under dispute and no other means of support, farmers have now become potters and bricklayers. The natural access to the lake has been fenced. This is to keep encroachers at bay, but is a hindrance to the local community too. During the dewatering process, the entire lake looked like a battlefield with trucks and other vehicles marking the lake from within. The desilting process was monitored by the BDA. Nagarajappa, a farmer-activist from Jakkur, rued the loss of livelihood for a generation of farmers. BDA is engaged in transformation rather than preservation. A sewage treatment plant has been built to treat water coming from Yelahanka before it is released into the lake. Wetlands have been created.
FUTURE: It is a wait-and-watch process. Three years after the resurrection of the lake began, only one-tenth of the water has returned. The local and migratory birds are punctual in their arrival though ornithologist Harish R Bhat says that 30 per cent of the birds have left. But, Deepak R says, “I am sure that in about three years, we will see a better ecosystem with plenty of fish and birds in the area.”
EXHIBITIONLake Tales: Focusing the urban rural margins – Jakkur lake
Dates: June 5-15Venue: Bar1, 69/3, Mission Road
Time out Bangalore
Lake Tales: Negotiating Routes
The artist Surekha’s new show is based on her three-year-long project, documenting the changes at Jakkur Lake, with the rise of residential localities such as Arkavathy Layout in the area. The show also includes a segment curated by her, of works by five upcoming artists – herpetologist Chaitra, soundscape artist Deepak DL, aquarium hobbyist Deepak R, ornithologist Kushal Kumar, and modeller Naganagowda Patil – based on environmental issues related to the lake. Surekha spoke about a phenomenon that she identifies as that of an “internal diaspora” in an interview with Jaideep Sen.
What provoked you to embark on this project?
Jakkur Lake has a dramatic countryside feel to it, despite being close to the heart of the city – something I’ve noticed for many years, while taking this route. That apart, a specific personality to an “urban-rural divide” evolves through what happens to lakes such as this one. The occupations of people who are, or were, connected to the lake, are now being altered. In some way, the story opens up like a palimpsest on human settlement.
This is one of 20 lakes adopted by the Lake Development Authority [a wing of the Bangalore Development Authority] to be “resurrected” in certain ways. Over the last three years, I have documented the transformation of the lake, the villages, and the people who reside on either side of it – in Jakkur and Sampigehalli. The project documents the lake’s own subaltern history in relation to the city of Bangalore, which today amounts to a loss of a rural myth.
How drastic were the changes that you found?
I found the lake’s soul undergoing a drastic change, with the making of the [residential area] Arkavathy Layout – in terms of migratory changes of birds, an new idol immersion facility, a sewage filtering process, as well as alterations in the professions of the people around it. All of this poses an interesting picture of the making of an urbanised region.
When I began the documentation three years ago, people still prayed at and made offerings to the lake, while also washing their clothes and vehicles, and dumping waste, and sewage in it. The apartments around it added to the problems. The most disheartening incident was during a dewatering process, where thousands of dead fishes lay floating on the water. Birds such as coots, cormorants and herons are common, and I have documented their routines and activities here as well. The seasonal fishing in the lake, and the dependant farming around it, have come to a halt, with the government changing the area’s “green belt” category to that of “urban development”, and converting the natural lake into an artificial one.
How have things changed for the farming community?
The lifestyles of the people have shifted from that of a farming community to something uncertain, after the land around the lake was acquired for development. The lake is now a site of a peculiar phenomenon of “internal Diaspora”, where the people are undergoing a sense of cultural and emotional displacement, while still very much belonging here.
Visit Surekha’s blog at www.surekha.info.
The death and rebirth of Jakkur lake
Bangalore, June 6, DHNS:
A City artist has documented the death and struggling rebirth of the 200-year-old Jakkur lake, through photographs, videos, video-interviews, archiving and exhibition.
The video showcases the gradual demise of the 160-acre lake in northeast Bangalore due to the onslaught of human greed and poor planning by civic agencies.
The video installation-cum-exhibition titled ‘Focusing the urban rural margins – Jakkur Lake’, being held at Barl, 69/3, Mission Road, is on till June 15. It can also be viewed online at http://surekhainfo.com//negotiating-routes-jakkurlake.Surekha, an acclaimed artist and resident of Sanjay Nagar, has been visiting the lake area for the past 10 years as her husband Anil Kumar is a native of Jakkur.
EffluentsShe has seen the lake brimming with aquatic life, and over a period, losing its sheen, thanks to the effluent discharge, illegal sand mining, and dumping of debris among other things.
When the Lake Development Authority and the Bangalore Development Authority decided to revive the lake, Surekha decided to videograph it to record the visual transformation.
The documentation done from 2008 till now shows the lake bunds being encroached upon, the fish perishing due to depletion of oxygen, and the birds slowly disappearing. It also shows how the lake is being saved.The BDA, through a contractor, has got the lake dewatered, desilted, fenced, created three artificial islands, walk path, food courts and a few other facilities.
But, there is no free access to people, even to the nearby villagers, unlike earlier. In the last few months, migratory birds have begun revisiting the lake, which has been spruced up in the last one year at a cost of Rs 21 crore.The consolation is the water body has been saved and a sewage treatment plant installed to let only treated water into the lake, said Surekha.
The exhibition also displays the works of five young artists who have adopted different modes to show their concern for nature.
Kushal Kumar, a native of Doddaballapur, has displayed a life-size cardboard cellphone with a computer screen to show how mobile phone towers have contributed to the dwindling number of sparrows.
Naganagouda Patil has displayed a handmade toy farm equipment to show how farmers have lost land around the lake. The present lake is more of ornamental value, while the original was a multipurpose one.
Harish Bhat, an ornithologist, said from the year 2000 onwards, he and some of his friends had been keenly studying 14 lakes, including Jakkur, in north Bangalore.
He said at least 20,000 birds used to throng Jakkur lake some years ago. But the number has come down drastically now. A lake should not be just a water storage point, but it should be in the shape of a saucer to maintain a good eco-system. “The periphery of the lake has been encroached upon. Lakes are interconnected. Hence, even if a lake is saved and its catchment area is not devoid of encroachments or pollution, then it will be just a water body,” he said
Still waters of Jakkur lake run deep
Lifeblood:‘Lake Tales’ is an interactive exhibit that looks at the entire lake as an art piece.
BANGALORE: As if to mark World Environment Day tangentially, Lake Tales, a visual art exhibition about Jakkur lake began at BAR1 (Bangalore Art Residency One) on Mission Road here on Sunday.
With an audience including those from outside the visual arts field, the response to the show indicated a genuine concern about urbanisation and the loss of a deeper connectivity with lakes in and around the city.
The project by artist Surekha looks at the entire lake as an art piece and involves the documentation of photographs, videos and interviews over three years. It interrogates how the agrarian lifestyle of the people living around the lake has come to an abrupt end.
At the same time, the show does not fall into the easy premise of holding the Bangalore Development Authority or Lake Development Authority the reason for this.
Lake Tales is an ongoing interactive project. It is also available on http://surekhainfo.com//negotiating- routes- jakkurlake
Surekha has also curated this show by including four young artists whose artistic concerns have been close to hers.
Chaitra Puthran is preoccupied with the behavioural pattern of snakes in relation to waterbodies. Her works speak about the prejudice against them.
Deepak D.L has recreated the sound at a lake all through a day and night. Hidden beneath an installation of debris, the sound evokes a certain non-existent visual.
Kushal Kumar’s video and sculpture indicate how sparrows have left the city, just as birds are no longer seen at Jakkur lake.
Naganagouda Patil has produced miniature models of farming tools and utensils, on display as in a museum, analogous to the fate of the professions of people near the lake.
Deepak R. has produced a miniature forest in what seems to be a simple aquarium, and converted a bath tub in the studio to an aquarium. This is a comment on aquatic life in the artificially maintained Jakkur lake.
Beyond the gallery
This show is seen as an “improvisation in the language of art”. An interactive project, it invites a response beyond the boundaries of the known gallery system.
The show is supported by KHOJ, New Delhi and is on till June 15, between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. everyday, at BAR1, next to Gokaldas building on Mission Road.
The lake has tales to tell,
by Velayanikal, Malavika
Much has been said about Bangalore’s lakes. Environmentalists, activists, armchair enthusiasts, almost everyone has a take on the vanishing lakes of the city. But when an artist looks at a lake that she’s known for 15 years, takes in the transformation that has come over it in the last three years, and presents it to others, the 200-year-old lake finds a fresh voice. That is Surekha’s Lake Tales.
It was her marriage to art historian Anil Kumar that introduced Surekha to the Jakkur Lake – a lush waterbody that sustained a wide ecosystem around it. An unusual harmony reigned here despite it being in the outskirts of bustling Bangalore city. Villagers used the water for farming, and other household uses; fishermen gleefully made enough catches to feed their families, sharing the fish in the lake with kingfishers; children dived in along with the pond herons; migratory birds flocked during October to March. This picture, though, didn’t last.
“The lake is close to Yelahanka, which was rapidly developing. The sewage from factories was conveniently directed to the Jakkur Lake. Fish began to die. Real estate encroachment also came upon the area surrounding the lake. The villagers soon lost their farming rights as the authorities acquired their land,” Surekha recalls.
When the Bangalore Development Authority took up Jakkur Lake under its purview, the aim was to “save the lake” from encroachers and polluters, and increase its water storage capacity. Their plan of action began with “dewatering, desilting, constructing a bund, and then filling up the lake again with rain water and treated water from the sewage treatment plant. Fish paid the first price. Tonnes of dead fish floated, almost covering the lake surface as the oxygen levels went down.
Birds deserted the lake next. Migratory birds, who found their way here crossing oceans and seas, had to fly again hunting for new winter destinations. “The lake was fenced to keep off encroachers, and that kept out villagers too; they could no longer draw water,” Surekha says. “The lake was being ‘re-structured’ from being a natural one to an artificial lake, an undertaking which is part of a larger scheme of ‘city beautification’ and ‘Lake Development Projects’. In the process,