October 20, 2013

AGARA DIARIES - PART 1


THE AGARA LAKE



Sandwiched between two uptown localities of the city, namely HSR and Kormangala, the Agara lake is like an oasis in the urban jungle that Bengaluru has become today. While it may have significantly shrunk in size, this medium sized water body still attracts a large number of avian species all throughout the year. In fact, it a thriving eco-system right in the heart of the city. Situated about 2.5 km from the busy Silk Board junction, you will find it on the left side while travelling towards Marathalli along the Outer Ring Road (ORR). Luckily for me, I pass by it twice each day since it lies en route my work place. As my shuttle moves along the boundary of the lake in the mornings, I stick my head out of the window to catch a glimpse of birds that have made Agara their home. And boy, I am elated to see that in the last two years that I have spent in the IT city, the number of winged visitors coming here has been steady, inspite of the many problems plaguing this lake.


At the official entrance to the lake is a large stone slab, on which you will find a strange piece of art, a pyramid of sorts. It consists of a girl balancing the Earth over her head. On the globe, is a boy in upside down position. Finally, placed over the right feet of the boy is a rooster. The words inscribed on the slab are something that we need to imbibe to preserve the ecological balance: "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children". Once inside, you will find a watch tower that offers a vantage point for birding. Along the edge of the water body is a path for jogging, which is shabbily maintained.  Right at the centre is an island, a 'natural fortress' which is covered by vegetation and is a heaven for aquatic birds. On the eastern side is a small patch of greenery, dotted with few trees. A wall which is breached at various places marks the boundary in all directions. 


Like all other lakes in the IT city, Agara is facing several threats, some of which may undermine its existence in the near future. Although this part of the country received more than average rainfall this season, some parts of the lake are still devoid of water, probably due to the fact that water is being drawn from here at a faster rate. Untreated sewage water continues to be discharged into it, making it an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, besides the foul smell. In fact, a nullah flows parallel to the western border of the lake. The unchecked proliferation of weeds inside the waters poses a grave danger since these plants prevent the flow of water. The growth of water hyacinth will tamper the oxygen levels thereby devastating aquatic life as well as the species that feed on them. Another cause of concern is the high level of air and noise pollution due to the traffic along the Ring Road in the vicinity. Finally, since the area is not manned properly, it has become a hub for several anti-social elements too in recent times. It is important that measures are put into place as fast as possible to prevent this lake from extinction. If this is not done, Agara like the Iblur lake located about 5 km from here, will be gone forever.


The good thing for the lake and its admirers like me is that the local community here is pretty aware of its responsibility towards the environment. In 2004, under pressure the Forest Department erected the fence around the lake and spent funds in cleaning the premises. The boundary wall here has prevented encroachment which is perhaps the biggest reason for the disappearance of several lakes in the city. Three years later, when the government had planned to lease out the Agara lake to a private company for the development of a theme based water park, it was met with stiff opposition and the proposal never materialized. On September 8 this year, the Chief Minister made a surprise visit to the lake after a newspaper reported that it had become a hot bed for mosquitoes. He is said to have blasted the authorities in charge of the maintenance and has asked them to take steps to clean up the lake. Though the lake is still in danger, there is a important lesson here for all of us. Local support is extremely crucial for the conservation of our city's lakes. 


The efforts put in by the locals is paying off. On my several visits to the lake in the last three months, I have spotted as many as 25 different species of birds. I guess an experienced photographer or a birding enthusiast will do a much better job. The incredibly high number of aquatic birds found here seems to suggest that the water here is quite clean and home to several kinds of fish. In fact, this water body is a breeding spot for birds like Pelicans, Coots and Moorhens. The pleasure of watching these avians with their young ones is very satisfying. However, there is more to Agara, actually much more. Birds of prey like Black Kites and Brahminy Kites are very common. The nullah is a magnet for smaller birds like Kingfishers and Drongos. One can spot a plethora of insect species including butterflies, beetles and bees. Several kinds of snakes too have been seen here. On my first visit, I also spotted a Mongoose in the bushes. The presence of so many faunal species  is evidence that Agara lake is doing well and I hope it stays this way forever.


For more post on Agara Lake, click here (Link)