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The people of Bhopal love their lakes

Jan 02, 2015

The lake brings up different emotions among different people. If the young ones are excited, the adults display concern.

Bhopal Teenagers

Bhopal:  It is not without a reason that Bhopal is called the city of lakes. Numerous lakes, small and big, dot the city but the ones that have attained global recognition are known as the Bhoj wetland. Designated as a Ramsar site, the Bhoj Wetland consists of the Upper Lake and the Lower Lake. Bhopal city has grown around the Upper Lake, which is over a thousand years old and the residents of the city have made the lakes a mainstay of their activities.

The banks of the lake are teeming with people on a chilly December morning. The reason is to celebrate Raahgiri, a weekly campaign near the Upper Lake for encouraging non-motorised transport and healthy living every Sunday morning.

For young girls like Purva Panwani, Apurva Tilwani, Unnatti Tilwani, Chandni Ramchandani and Mouli Mandhaani, the Bhoj wetland is the most beautiful place in Bhopal. “Raahgiri is an attempt to remind people about the nature friendly habits, and what better place to do it than around our beloved lake,” the girls chirp in unison. Jahnvi, an eight-year-old girl, says that the lake offers a beautiful and exciting view.

The lake brings up different emotions among different people. If the young ones are excited, the adults display concern. Navin Verma, a 24-year-old, says rains are crucial for ensuring ample supply of water to the lake. Bhoj wetland is Bhopal’s lifeline, but without rain the lake turns into a playing ground, like it did, some five years back. Awareness through programmes like the ‘Clean India Campaign’ has encouraged people to keep the lake clean. Improved facilities provided by the government also motivate people to keep the water body clean,” Verma says.

Bhopal’s lakes are not just fun and recreation, they provide livelihood to people as well.

Dr Vipin Vyas of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Limnology, Barkatullah University, Bhopal, says that the multipurpose water body provides not just drinking water to the city but also employment to various communities of people like lakeside vendors, washermen, fishermen and boatmen. “Around 500 fisherman families are dependent on the lake for their livelihoods. The lake also supports trapa (water chestnut) cultivators,” he said.

Big water bodies like the Bhoj wetland have a positive impact on the micro climate of the area, and therefore, constitute an important component of the ecosystem. It is not just the people of Bhopal who use it for numerous activities but it also harbours wildlife like aquatic birds, fishes and turtles. More than 25 species of migratory birds visit wetland every winter.

The successful conservation of the Bhoj Wetland can set a global example for urban lakes. However, keeping urban lakes clean is always a challenge for civic authorities as the natural purification system in such water bodies is not every efficient. Also, compared to rivers, lakes have a smaller catchment area increasing their vulnerability against impurities that might flow from the catchment area.

It is clear that the people here are sensitive about their lakes. As Gulshan Bamra, Commissioner-cum-Director, Town & Country Planning, Madhya Pradesh, says: “People of Bhopal love their lakes and are ready to put even their lives at stake for their conservation.” Even those residents who do not derive direct economic benefits from the lake also keen to preserve it for the sake of strong cultural, historical and architectural interests.

Bamra adds that the entire catchment area of the Bhoj Wetland has been declared a no-colonisation zone and the usage of land in the catchment area is limited to agricultural activities. “Construction is a strictly regulated activity in this area of 400 sq km which is spread in Bhopal and the neighbouring Sehore district, and also includes a hundred odd villages in its stretch,” he said.

The administration’s effort at maintaining the lakes is applauded by the morning walkers who come to the lake in hundreds every day. Forty-eight-year-old Mohammad Sayyad from Bhopal says that the Bhoj Wetland is a symbol of respect for Bhopal and feels that the government is taking good care of the lake by providing various facilities and keeping the water body clean. “The lake provides water and jobs to thousands of people in Bhopal. Many eateries have opened on its bank as the lake attracts hundreds of people, everyday,” Sayyad said.

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