Bangalore in Karnataka, India was once a city of lakes. Around 1,792 lakes existed there 500 years ago built by the city’s founder. In the 1960s, about 280 lakes were left. An estimated 70 to 80 lakes remain today. Lakes were lost from development and surrounding commercial or household encroachment. This is a great loss for cities because lakes help recharge groundwater supplies, reduce the air temperatures, and provide habitat for wildlife and vegetation.
The India Water Portal recently hosted The Lost Lakes of Bangalore contest. The aim of this project was to document histories of lost lakes in the city. The winning entry was “Err- bane” Truth – Dharmambudi Tank. I really enjoyed watching this short-film. It showed, in an easy-to-understand format, the importance of lakes to urban areas.
Dropping water levels in Umiam (Barapani) Lake in the state of Meghalaya in northeast India are causing tension among competing water users. This lake was constructed as a reservoir for a hydroelectric project in the 1960s. It (and associated tributaries) provides water for power generation, agriculture, drinking water, and recreation.
Not only does this lake face dropping water levels – 39 feet over the last three years, to be exact – water pollution is also becoming a serious problem. Untreated sewage flows into the lake from streams and rivers that pass through the capital city of Shillong. Increased sediment enters the lake resulting from urban sprawl in Shillong. Construction of roads and buildings in the city cause soil erosion. And, because of the urban sprawl, poor farmers must change cultivation patterns which is also leading to rapid soil erosion. Lake problems are compounded by the fact that numerous stakeholders are responsible for different areas of management.
So, what is the solution?
One organization called People’s Learning Centre believes that bringing stakeholders together to plan integrated approaches for lake-water management might be the answer. On March 9 and 10, 2009, they hosted a conference (with the support of Arghyam) in Shillong to allow various stakeholders to discuss conservation strategies. Videos and presentations are now available on the India Water Portal.
An estimated three hundred and four million of them across the globe, and yet researchers are noticing many inland lakes are beginning to dry. In Siberia, Central Asia, East Africa, and North America – the results are the same – lakes simply cannot compete with man-made alterations to the environment. These are not just small lakes, some of the lakes with dropping water levels are gigantic in size.
There are 122 large lakes in the world each over 1000 square kilometers (386 square miles). Lake Victoria, in Africa, is the largest tropical lake in the world at 68,800 square kilometers (26,560 square miles). Mounting water-level decline in this lake is slowly eroding the livelihood of local fisherman and ranchers, agricultural producers, and industrial water users near the lake. A lack of suitable drinking water or dependable power supply is also becoming more common in the region.
Sometimes occasional fluctuations of water levels in lakes are natural, but the current rate that many lakes are beginning to go dry throughout the world is not. Humans alter the natural environment near lakes and water levels decline. We build dams, over-pump rivers, over-use groundwater, put roads and parking lots in natural recharge areas, build industries in locations without enough water, over-irrigate our crops, and, often, we use too much water in our homes. Not to mention the effect of a changing climate on water supply sources.
But, some things that could help ‘decline’ at least some of this water-level decline include: conservation, conservation, conservation – grow crops in regions they are acclimated (low-water crops) – alternative water supply sources such as rainwater harvesting systems – pursue green “water conservative” development techniques – reduce the pavement – rethink industrial production – low impact living – conservation, conservation, conservation.
A few other lakes around the world with dropping water levels–