A Thriving System Offers Hope to "Global Water Stress” | Ravi Shah

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[1].

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[2]

  • 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[3]


Species spotted in the ecosystem

  1. Ants (9+)

  2. Bats

  3. Bees (6+)

  4. Beetles (35+)

  5. Butterflies (17+)

  6. Cats

  7. Chipmunks

  8. Civet Cats

  9. Crabs

  10. Crickets (12+)

  11. Dogs

  12. Donkeys

  13. Dragonflies (11+)

  14. Earth Worms (5+)

  15. Fishes (6+)

  16. Flies (8+)

  17. Foxes

  18. Frogs (8+)

  19. Hares

  20. Lizards (10+)

  21. Mice (7+)

  22. Moles

  23. Molluscs

  24. Mongoose

  25. Monkeys

  26. Moths (12+)

  27. Pigs

  28. Praying Mantis (8+)

  29. Scorpions (3+)

  30. Snakes (12+)

  31. Spiders (22+)

  32. Stick Insects (3+)

  33. Tortoises

  34. Wasps (5+)

  35. 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.

  1. Barn owl

  2. Brahmini kite

  3. Cormorants

  4. Crow

  5. Cuckoo

  6. Dabchicks

  7. Doves

  8. Duck

  9. Egrets

  10. Greenshanks

  11. Grey heron

  12. Harriers

  13. Herons

  14. Kingfishers

  15. Kites

  16. Lapwings

  17. Larks

  18. Mynas

  19. Paradise flycatcher

  20. Parakeets

  21. Partridges

  22. Peacock

  23. Sandpipers

  24. Sparrow

  25. Stilts

  26. Stork

  27. Sunbirds

  28. Swallow

  29. Swift

  30. Wagtails

  31. White eagle

  32. Woodpecker


  1. Medicinal herbs (15+)*

  2. Native trees (25+)

  3. Water plants (5+)

  4. Mushrooms (15+)

*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


  1. Dr. Gosia, Soil Biologist

  2. Dr. Jagannath Aryal, Geography and Spatial Sciences

  3. Dr. M. Inayathullah, Basic Life Research Scientist and Doctor of Philosophy, Chemistry Bio-organic

  4. Dr. Sharad Lele, Distinguished Fellow in Environmental Policy & Governance

  5. Dr. Subbu Subramanya, Entomologist and Lake Activist

  6. Laurent Pfister, Doctor of Philosophy, Hydrology and Water Resources Science

  7. Almitra Patel, Indian environmental policy advocate and anti-pollution activist

  8. Anitha Loganadan, Teacher

  9. Anjali Srinivas, Founder of Green Quotient Ltd.

  10. Balan Nambiar, Artist

  11. C.F.John, Activist and Senior Artist

  12. Captain S. Prabhala, Non-Executive Independent Director of BPL Limited

  13. Chaithanya P, Activist

  14. Dhyan A, Activist

  15. Krishnakumar, Activist

  16. Late Maya Devi Urs

  17. Leo Saldanha, Environmental, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives

  18. Lokesh BS, Founder of Vandebharatam

  19. Major BM Appachu, Preservationist

  20. Manjunath H, Farmer and Activist

  21. Mr. Vidyasagar, CEO of Karnataka State Lake Conservation & Development Authority (KSLCDA)

  22. Nyla Coelho, Author

  23. Rajeev S, eco-builder

  24. Shridhar Pabbishetty, CEO of Namma Bangalore Foundation

  25. Shruthi Prasanna, Activist

  26. Simar K, Activist

  27. Sri Harish Nayak, K.A.S., Bangalore City District Commissioner

  28. Stanley George, Goodearth – Builders of sustainable communities

  29. Theodore Bhaskaran, Indian film historian and wildlife conservationist

  30. Urmilla Devi Dasi, ISKCON

  31. V. Vilasini, Artist

  32. Veeraraghavan S, Activist

  33. Venkat Balasubramanian, Retired Advocate - Supreme Court of India

  34. Vinu VG, Activist

  35. Zafar Futehally, Indian naturalist and conservationist, Padmashree awardee (fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India)

Media and Publications

  1. Charles Eisenstein. (2020). Every Act a Ceremony | Charles Eisenstein. [online] Available at: https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/ceremony/

  2. 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.

  3. Mention in the works of Judith Schwartz, journalist and author whose work focuses on nature-based solutions to global crises.

  4. Mention in the works of Rupert Sheldrake, biologist and author, best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance.

  5. News9. (2020). [TV] Bangalore: 11.37 minutes. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ktosf79-m0

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. Vikalpsangam.org. (2020). [online] Available at: http://www.vikalpsangam.org/article/download/saving-doddagubbi-kere


[1] 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].

[2] Similar to the minimum intervention ideology proposed by Dr Masanobu Fukuoka in ‘Natural Way of Farming’ working with nature, through Natural Rejuvenation methods

[3] Numbers in brackets refer to species discovered

[4] 4th generation in 2 years – 16 members counted recently