Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Author: Anjali Srinivas
Bangalore, recognized as the garden city of India and now ranked as one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, is paying a heavy price for its success. The tech hub growing at a pace of 8.5% as of 2019 needs to quench the water needs of 12.3 million population in the city. Years of rapid urbanization, a swelling population and poor water management have led to acute water crisis making it the second driest city in the world after Sao Paulo.
Hundreds of living lakes have either been turned to sewage ponds or replaced by concrete jungles. The below satellite images shows how Doddagubbi Lake, situated in the vicinity of the city has been encroached over the years.
Today, the Sacred Wild Island Ponds created out of the single handed efforts of Ravi Shah, an artist and conversationist, stands as shinning example. Despite a thousand hurdles, he continued his rescue mission reviving the lake and the surrounding habitat. "Observing nature is a true sacred ritual", he retorts. He believes in conserving such natural pockets and religiously rescuing them by allowing nature to regenerate all life forms through its complex mechanism. This is a simple, cost effective solution and the only eco-technology he believes in. To Ravi every small action counts. Building local solutions for global problems is the ideal way ahead. It is the sole practical way of addressing our major environmental crisis today. A team of supportive experts, farmers, activists, award-winning environmentalists, volunteers and eminent scientists have stood up to support Ravi Shah's single handed rescue mission to turn the dying lake into a thriving ecosystem today.
Image 1: Ravi Shah standing near Doddagubbi Lake
Image 2: A revived lake in the morning sunshine
Scientists and experts around the globe have shared valuable insights about the potential of spongy soil, which has the ability to hold 30-50 times more water than a dam constructed above it. Spongy soils can be restored by conserving or building natural sacred island ponds with native grassland, forest and wild marshes. Such sacred acts should embrace the sanctity preserved by tribal cultures. Examples aplenty have shown the success of tribal actions. Bishnoi – a religious sect in the Western Thar Desert and northern states of India followed Guru Jhambeshwar’s commandments. Eight of these tenets have been prescribed to preserve bio-diversity. Their practices encouraged good animal husbandry and included a ban on killing animals and felling green trees, providing protection to all life forms. Today what is deemed as scientific discovery was once the reserve of valuable knowledge of indigenous people - understood through observation of nature, pure love and care. It is only through such valuable ideologies can we pave way to protect and conserve natural pockets.
These values are reflected in the actively functioning ecosystem at Doddagubbi lake which acts as a model solution for urban water crisis. We recognise the preservation of a system that supports the below microcosms
Shallow pond diversity
Spongy grassland hydrology
Sacred jungle diversity
Wild island biota stability
Below are simple acts proposed to preserve such microcosms:
Sanctuarise natural ponds by fencing off sacred islands with cacti & thorny trees for minimal interference allowing nature to work its complex revival mechanism
Plant native trees, shrubs & grasses to remove foreign invasive species
Ban practices such as stone-walling, round footpaths, depth digging that are detrimental to nature
Identify policy potential of working lake revival programs and involve relevant government authorities as key policy stakeholders
Educate and inspire children on the success of local models. Increase awareness among communities and encourage their active participation in conservation
Sacred Oasis are naturally built by pristine rainwater that has crucial vitalising energy. These oasis ensure the groundwater around 10-20 km around are clean and recharged while improving the air quality in the environment. With active community participation and minimal interference, we can adopt the simplest, cost effective and efficient solution to avert urban environmental problems.
The result of the Model Ecosystem Revival at Doddagubbi
For the first time in 25 years, a 4-5 acre portion of 145 acres Doddagubbi Lake holds water perennially.
Surrounding villages - Chikkagubbi, Nadagowda Golahalli, Bandey Bommasandra, Yerepanahalli now have borewell water levels filled throughout the dry summer and winter season since the last 4 years.
The revived natural ecosystem is now home to hundreds of terrestrial and aquatic life including abundant varieties of insects and rare varieties of mollusks and beetles.
Doddagubbi remains as Bangalore’s last clean rainwater catchment with an area of 9 sq. km. Most of the catchment area is still relatively a clean farmland.
Government bodies supported the action with Doddagubbi Panchayat enforcing treatment units for the nearby apartments who dumped sewage and wastes. DS-Max Apartments and other constructors who made it a sewage dump were ordered to fence the lake.
Below are the details of documented thriving Flora and Fauna in the naturally revived ecosystem
Species spotted in the ecosystem
Earth Worms (5+)
Praying Mantis (8+)
Stick Insects (3+)
Water Insects (9+)
Over 30 varieties of birds including some rarer beauties have been sighted. 20-25 different nesting species of birds have settled while many migratory birds visit seasonally.
Medicinal herbs (15+)*
Native trees (25+)
Water plants (5+)
*Herbs like Brahmi, Touch-Me-Not, Garikke, Wild Passion, Thumbe, Ekka, Yeleda Soppu, Lemon Drop and many more are found growing even in mid-summer’s heat, dry clay, without minimal rain
Dr. Gosia, Soil Biologist
Dr. Jagannath Aryal, Geography and Spatial Sciences
Dr. M. Inayathullah, Basic Life Research Scientist and Doctor of Philosophy, Chemistry Bio-organic
Dr. Sharad Lele, Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Policy & Governance
Dr. Subbu Subramanya, Entomologist and Lake Activist
Laurent Pfister, Doctor of Philosophy, Hydrology and Water Resources Science
Almitra Patel, Indian environmental policy advocate and anti-pollution activist
Anitha Loganadan, Teacher
Anjali Srinivas, Founder of Green Quotient Ltd.
Balan Nambiar, Artist
C.F.John, Activist and Senior Artist
Captain S. Prabhala, Non-Executive Independent Director of BPL Limited
Chaithanya P, Activist
Dhyan A, Activist
Late Maya Devi Urs
Leo Saldanha, Environmental, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives
Lokesh BS, Founder of Vandebharatam
Major BM Appachu, Preservationist
Manjunath H, Farmer and Activist
Mr. Vidyasagar, CEO of Karnataka State Lake Conservation & Development Authority (KSLCDA)
Nyla Coelho, Author
Rajeev S, eco-builder
Shridhar Pabbishetty, CEO of Namma Bangalore Foundation
Shruthi Prasanna, Activist
Simar K, Activist
Sri Harish Nayak, K.A.S., Bangalore City District Commissioner
Stanley George, Goodearth – Builders of sustainable communities
Theodore Bhaskaran, Indian film historian and wildlife conservationist
Urmilla Devi Dasi, ISKCON
V. Vilasini, Artist
Veeraraghavan S, Activist
Venkat Balasubramanian, Retired Advocate - Supreme Court of India
Vinu VG, Activist
Zafar Futehally, Indian naturalist and conservationist, Padmashree awardee (fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India)
Media and Publications
Charles Eisenstein. (2020). Every Act a Ceremony | Charles Eisenstein. [online] Available at: https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/ceremony/
Insights into the lake once considered a “perennial tank” by the Survey of India, are also offered in a write-up by Zafar Futehally, one of India’s best known naturalists and ornithologists, in the Journal of Ecological Society, 1990. Mr Futehally, in “Dodda Gubbi: The Case of an Overused Lake,” also speaks of the tank being a valuable bird sanctuary.
Mention in the works of Judith Schwartz, journalist and author whose work focuses on nature-based solutions to global crises.
Mention in the works of Rupert Sheldrake, biologist and author, best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance.
News9. (2020). [TV] Bangalore: 11.37 minutes. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ktosf79-m0
Story, C. (2020). In Doddagubbi, a leap of faith. [online] Bangalore Mirror. Available at: https://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/bangalore/cover-story/in-doddagubbi-a-leap-of-faith/articleshow/68529392.cms
The Hindu. (2020). ‘This lake is fed by dirty laundry water’. [online] Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/%E2%80%98This-lake-is-fed-by-dirty-laundry-water%E2%80%99/article14382550.ece
Vikalpsangam.org. (2020). [online] Available at: http://www.vikalpsangam.org/article/download/saving-doddagubbi-kere
 BBC News. (2020). The 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-42982959 [Accessed 2 Jan. 2020].
 Similar to the minimum intervention ideology proposed by Dr Masanobu Fukuoka in ‘Natural Way of Farming’ working with nature, through Natural Rejuvenation methods
 Numbers in brackets refer to species discovered
 4th generation in 2 years – 16 members counted recently