Proverbially, comparisons are odious but there are occasions when it becomes necessary to make comparisons. I just came across a report on the way the lakes in another “City of Lakes”, Udaipur, are being taken care of. Enough has been written about the way our own lakes, including the ones that fall into the category of “heritage”, are treated. We take pride in calling Bhopal a “City of Lakes” and market it as such. We also claim that the Upper Lake is the pride of Bhopal and it symbolizes the city, to boot. And, yet the treatment that the state government and the Municipal Corporation, the custodian of the Lake, give to it amounts to nothing short of trying to kill it as soon as possible. One might add both the cities are in the list of those which are being upgraded as “smart cities”. While Udaipur has included its lakes for being “smartened up” no such decision has been taken in respect of the lakes of Bhopal by the special organization created for making the city smart.
In a recent report in The Pioneer I came across a write-up on the way the lakes of Udaipur are being taken care of and how attempts are being made to “rejuvenate” them. The lakes obviously are held in reverence as these are now treated as indicative of “inherited smartness” of the town. With smart planning and implementation, the Udaipur Municipal Corporation has already made two of the city’s lakes, viz. Fateh Sagar and Gowardhan lake, free of sewage. Two other important lakes, Pichola and Swaroop Sagar, are next to be taken up for making them sewage-free."
The report also says that a Lake Patrolling Squad has been constituted and is in position in order to prevent illegal constructions around the lakes. The municipality has, in addition, devised a scheme of cash incentives for those who report instances of illegal constructions near the lakes or of sewer drains flowing into any of the city’s lakes through “Action Udaipur App”.
The report claims that Udaipur serves as a role model in regard to immersion of clay or plaster of Paris images of gods and goddesses in the lakes after every festival. Immersions are reported to be carried out only symbolically. Apparently, this has had the desired effect and people, no less religious than those of Bhopal, are cooperating. According to the report, people are very possessive about the lakes. They willingly involve themselves in shramdaan and other activities relating to maintenance of cleanliness, etc. Therefore, it seems, they are prepared to do whatever is necessary to conserve their lakes.
People here in Bhopal, however, are keen to make merry on the lake front but have displayed a “hands-off” attitude in so far as efforts to conserve them is concerned. People’s participation was noticed only once about a decade ago when the Upper Lake was in dire straits. The effort led by the chief minister to deepen the Upper Lake proved to be futile as the work involved was much beyond what five hundred-odd pairs of hands could achieve.
In none of the aspects referred to in respect of the lakes of Udaipur has the Bhopal Municipal Corporation able to either initiate action for improvement of quality of the waters of the Upper Lake, a source of drinking water, or to prevent illegal encroachment/constructions around it. In fact it has turned a blind eye to these illegal activities and has itself commenced illegal construction within 500 metres of the Full Tank Level. There is no action seems to be in the offing and eight drains continue since one-does-not-know-when to empty their various contaminants, including sewage into the Lake. The Corporation does not seem to have even mooted the problem before the state government for diversion of the drains or installation of sewage treatment plants.
Besides, the authorities are still struggling to prevent immersion of plaster of Paris images in the Upper Lake. Every year it is the same story. Either the orders are not disseminated clearly or artisans are resistant to change, being non-cooperative; control on the size and material to be used for the images continues to elude the administration. Somehow the Municipal Corporation of Bhopal has failed to elicit cooperation from general public in regard to conservation of the important water body. On the other hand, the Udaipur Municipal Corporation has incentivized reports/complaints from the common people regarding efforts to damage the eco-systems of the lakes.
Perhaps our local body should draw lessons from the Udaipur municipality in respect of conservation of the lakes of Bhopal. Perhaps it understands that by simply calling the town “City of Lakes” and blazing it prominently in red on the Upper Lake neither conserves it or other lakes, nor does it make the town a city of lakes.