Sushovan Sircar and Zeyad Masroor Khan

Rahul Sabharwal, a marketing manager, has been a regular visitor of Sanjay Lake for years. The lake , he feels is “different from the chaos and noise of the city”. However , Sabharwal , like many others is disappointed by the government’s apathy towards the lakes and its repeated failure to keep them pollution free.

Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has once again taken an initiative to revive three of Delhi’s largest lakes – Hauz Khas Lake , Sanjay Lake and Bhalaswa Lake.

DDA previously had an MoU with INTACH [Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage] for the maintenance of Hauz Khas Lake which expired in 2007. Noting the deteriorating conditions of the lakes , it has once again turned to the heritage body for the revival of the water bodies. A new MoU for five years has been signed with INTACH for their technical expertise in this field.

“What happens in urban lakes is that pollution level is so high, that the natural water system loses its ability to self cleanse it. We will introduce a consortium of bacteria, which can replicate this natural cleansing process”, says Ritu Singh of INTACH.

Environmentalists though feel that the simply treating the lakes is not enough. A more sensitive approach towards the issue needs to be adopted. However , at a time when the Yamuna itself is so dangerously polluted , lakes often end up as a soft target for pollutants. Sunny Verma of SWECHHA an NGO which works for the revival of Yamuna says ,“ Open spaces need to be kept open and encroachment along the lakes must stop”. Moreover , “the groundwater must be retained and conserved” he adds.

Experts at INTACH ,however , say that having previously attempted to pump groundwater for the Hauz Khas Lake they realized it was neither cost effective nor a solution. “ The only effective method is to ecologically treat water from the sewage treatment plants and introduce them in the lakes” says Ritu Singh.

Both Sanjay and Bhalaswa Lakes have been cut off from the Yamuna due to construction of embankments. Hence they tend to dry up during summer. A treated supply of water from nearby Kondli sewage plants should keep water levels intact throughout the year , says Singh.

Lakes , which attract thousands of visitors everyday are often polluted by the visitors themselves. Navneet Singh , a resident of Mayur Vihar who visits the nearby Sanjay Lake daily for a walk says that people tend to discard garbage in the lakes which spawns mosquitoes and other insects.

“ If the massive Sanjay Lake in Mayur Vihar is properly rejuvenated , the water problems of the entire East Delhi region can be solved to a great extent” says Verma of SWECHHA. “The lakes need to protected as they are crucial not just for humans but all other life forms as well”, he added.