Renovated Gujjarakere at the Cost of Rs 4 Crore Filled with Slush due to Influx of Sewage
Mangaluru: Mangaluru’s 1,800-year-old Gujjarakere Lake which is among eight others in the revival scheme undertaken by Mangaluru Smart City Limited (MSCL) and Mangaluru City Corporation was renovated and inaugurated in February 2022 at a whopping cost of Rs 4 crores. The lake was revived and restored to its former glory. Brimming with sewage, polluted water, hyacinth, filth and garbage is what best described Mangaluru’s Gujjarakere lake until recently. Spread over three acres, not only is Gujjarakere the oldest lake in Kudla, but also one of the largest with historical significance attached to it. Over the decades, this ancient lake became neglected and treated as a dumping ground for waste materials. But all of this is now a thing of the past: Out of the eight lakes that have been identified for a facelift, four – Bajal, Kudroli, Jappinamogaru, only Gujjarakere was completed, and work on the rest is in progress.
An Extreme-Makeover! From Past to Present, However……
Legend has it that the Gujjarakere lake was founded by Saint Gorakshanatha. Sources reveal that the lake is linked to two distinguished Saints, Macchendranatha and Gorakshanatha, who lived in the surrounding areas of Mangaluru. The two of them were celebrated deities of the famous Kadri Sri Manjunatha Temple. This lake is also connected to nearby famous temples like Mahatobar Sri Mangaladevi Temple, Halekote Sri Mariyamma Mahishamardini Temple, Bolar and Sri Gorakshanatha Temple, Gorakshadhand. But negligence towards this lake by the district administration and MCC had resulted in the dilapidated condition of Gujjarakere. Sources also reveal that during the previous initiatives launched to clean Gujjarekere, labourers had hunted and killed many tortoises that had made the lake their home.
After completion of the Gujarekere Lake, you can see stainless steel railings provided around the Lake for the safety of the children and seniors. A wide area of walking is provided, all interlocked making it comfortable for walking or jogging. The area is well lit with the new LED Street lights around the lake. The partial area around the lake has been spread with sand turning it into a play arena. There is also Gym equipment for young people to exercise. The Lake also features new benches, wastebaskets, and green turf making it look beautiful. Apart from the decades old existing trees, nearly 30 plus trees have been planted. It is learnt that in order to increase the oxygen level in the Lake, a small boat model aerator will be added in the nearest future.
Before removing the silt, the impure water was drained to some extent. The rejuvenation proposal covered the dredging of the lake to a depth of about two meters. As part of the revival, it has a walking track around the lake, a children’s play area, a public toilet and an open gym. There are railings around the lake and the surroundings have been beautified with landscape works. A couple of months ago, speaking to Team Mangalorean, Yogish Kumar Jeppu, president of the Gujjarakere Theertha Samrakshana Samithi, a local body that has been working towards conserving the lake since 2002 said, “The water from the lake was said to have medicinal properties and could cure a host of diseases, including skin infections. Springwater fed the lake and it was used for drinking by the locals”.
He further said, “Earlier, religious processions from the neighbouring temples of Mangaladevi and Marigudi would pass by this lake and the deity made to have a jhalaka (holy bath) before proceeding further. But over the last century, these religious activities stopped completely. And with industries coming up around this area, the lake water became heavily polluted. The Mangaluru City Corporation too began treating it as a dumping ground”.
However, a few months after the recently renovated Gujjarkere in Jeppu, it is again witnessing an influx of sewage thereby threatening the water body. Speaking to Team Mangalorean, Nemu Kottari, who fought relentlessly for nearly two decades for the rejuvenation of the historic Gujjarakere in Jeppu under the banner of Gujjarakere Theertha Samrakshana Samithi said, “Even though Gujarekere (Lake) has stunning looks from the outside but from within, it is again being filled with slush. The sewage continues to enter the lake from the northeastern side and reports from the College of Fisheries too confirmed the presence of sewage.
Kottari further said, “While the water looked fresh immediately after it was drained out and freshwater accumulated, one could see sewage sediments present, which we all regret to say. MSCL has not executed the work completely, though many sewage inlets were closed down or diverted to newly laid sewer lines. It also did not construct the Theertha Kere (Kalyani) in the middle of the lake as promised by leaders. The lake has abundant groundwater sources and could cater to drinking water requirements of the city if sewage leak is completely plugged”.
Meanwhile, Area corporator P.S. Bhanumathi said that the corporation is making efforts to identify the exact cause of the sewage flow. It will be plugged at any cost and the beauty of the lake maintained, she said. Mangaluru City Corporation Commissioner Akshy Sridhar said that MSCL has been asked to deploy aerators in the lake so as to disperse sediments for the time being. Though engineers have been unable to locate the source of raw sewage, it will be finally identified and plugged, has assured Sridhar
It should be noted that while efforts to prevent sewage flow into the lake began in 2001 with incomplete works, it took a final shape a couple of years ago when Mangaluru Smart City Ltd. (MSCL) began lake rejuvenation. Member of Parliament Nalin Kumar Kateel and Member of Legislative Assembly D. Vedavyas Kamath inaugurated the rejuvenated lake last month. Once a breeding ground for mosquitoes filled with raw sewage, the lake became a must-see place after its rejuvenation. Hundreds of people flock to it every day for physical activities and footfall reaches thousands during the weekends. A walking path around the lake, a children’s play area and an open-air gym are the attractions of the rejuvenated lake.
In the month of March, Team Mangalorean had interacted with citizens about the new Gujarekere- Shailesh, a resident near the lake said, “Water bodies sustain a city and when they are destroyed, it is a matter of grave concern. Now, not only have they been revived, but we have a place of peace and quiet to retreat into amid the city life,” Mumtaz from Cascia said, “There is a lot of difference now- a few months ago the lake was horrible with weeds, garbage, stink etc, but now it has become a needed place for people to walk, exercise or simply sit and enjoy the nature. I only hope that the administration maintains the lake and keeps its standards, because we have seen the parks, and lakes which were upgraded, but due to lack of maintenance have lost charm. I now visit this place alone in the morning time, and in the evening I come back with my two kids after their school, and they really enjoy the surroundings of this lake”.
With the extreme makeover of this Lake, the area is now free of mosquitoes, which could lead to malaria and Dengue diseases. From children, youth and seniors everyone is happy to use this area during mornings and evenings, either for walking or sitting and watching the beauty of nature. Even a bunch of ducks give company to the visitors at the Lake. It is learnt that the project was executed by Bengaluru based Visaga which will maintain it for a year, after which MCC has to maintain it.
But with the slush seen again gathering in the Lake, citizens are upset why even MSCL or MCC did not plan well before renovation and also have maintenance people to look after the Lake, from getting polluted. Another thing the people who use the area for walking or exercise are raising their voices against a bunch of water trucks/tankers lined up adjacent to the lake, spilling water and also spoiling the beauty of the newly revived Rs 4 crore Lake. Oh well, on a final note, we should all know, that whichever project MSCL or MCC undertakes has to be done twice or it is done in an unscientific manner and within a few weeks or months the maintenance of the project is neglected.